Howard Hughes Corp. wants South Street project to stay in family

The Howard Hughes Corp.’s South Street Seaport project isn’t for sale — for now.

The complex at South Street and Fulton Street, now known as the Seaport District, is not on a $20 billion list of US “non-core” assets that publicly traded Hughes plans to unload within 18 months.

The news surprised analysts, who expected HHC, with a lagging share price, to put the whole company up for sale.

But the more intriguing surprise to New York waterfront-watchers was that HHC intends to hang onto the Seaport at the same time it’s preparing to unload some much larger holdings — such as Monarch City, a planned, 10-million-square-foot project in Allen, Texas.

Although the Seaport buildings have only about 470,000 square feet for stores, restaurants and entertainment uses, it’s listed among HHC’s much larger “core assets” — such as the Summerlin planned community in Nevada with 22,500 acres and nearly 100,000 residents.

HHC reconfirmed to The Post on Monday: “The company has identified non-core assets it expects to sell over the next 12 to 18 months. The Seaport is not on this list and remains an important part of the Howard Hughes Corp.”

The news was greeted with relief downtown, where some feared that a sale offering would stall or slow the Seaport just as its major components are nearing completion.

Pier 17 has restaurants, a rooftop concert venue and ESPN studios. And most other Seaport buildings are nearly all leased.

“It’s a positive for downtown,” said Downtown Alliance President Jessica Lappin. “This continuity is important.”

As part of a “restructuring,” Hughes also replaced David Weinreb — a prominent Seaport advocate — as CEO with longtime company executive Paul Layne. However, Hughes New York-tristate President Saul Scherl, a prime mover behind the Seaport, remains at his post.

Work on the Tin Building, which is to open as a huge Jean-Georges Vongerichten seafood hall in early 2021, is speeding along.

Despite the progress, some downtown landlords and brokers say a Seaport sale offering would have been untenable as long as two big questions hang over 250 Water St. — a vacant parcel within the district that it bought for $180 million in 2018.

Development has been on hold over possible mercury contamination under the site, which had been a 19th-century thermometer factory. And HHC and the city disagree over how large a building can be put up there.

The land is zoned for about 289,000 square feet, but HHC hopes it can add 600,000 square feet by buying nearby air rights. The city has not signed off on that.

Hughes didn’t respond to our question of whether the 250 Water St. situation stood in the way of a Seaport sale.

“As the Seaport District gets closer to achieving critical mass of offerings, Howard Hughes will consider partnering with third parties to reduce our equity commitment,” Hughes Chief Financial Officer David O’Reilly told the Bisnow Dallas-Fort Worth.

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