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Thread: South Street Seaport Neighborhood Development

  1. #1

    Default South Street Seaport Neighborhood Development

    http://www.downtownexpress.com/

    Constructing luxury homes in the Seaport’s historic buildings

    By Alison Gregor


    Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

    South Street Seaport was once the rakish portal to New York City commerce but never recovered from a 19th-century decline, even with the advent in recent decades of a touristy theme mall.

    But a renaissance may be in the offing with efforts by the city and real estate developers to make the historic marine neighborhood more amenable to potential residents.

    Several developments are in the works or planned along with large-scale renovation of the East River waterfront and changes to the Seaport itself. The once dynamic but now decaying Seaport is becoming a full-fledged residential neighborhood.

    “In 1997, people talked about the people living down here, and there was almost a pioneering mentality to it,” said John Evans, vice president of Sciame Development, one of the Seaport’s developers. “It’s not that way any more. It’s an increasingly stable and residential community.”

    According to data from Community Board 1, as of a year ago, about 575 residential units had been added to the 12-block Seaport area since the 2000 census, and at least 95 units were under construction. In the neighboring Financial District, about 5,800 units were created or under construction.

    Developers speculated that all of those new residents of Lower Manhattan could either head west or east for their weekend and evening leisure.

    Denizens of the Seaport hope they’ll go east.

    “Where do these people go to have a cup of coffee?” Evans asked. “To get some peace and quiet? To not be part of the business world?

    “These people are going to walk to the Seaport neighborhood and the East River waterfront to the extent that it is an inviting destination.”


    Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

    Developers of 14 properties on Front St. and Peck Slip (L-r): Tony Zunino and Richard S. Berry of Zuberry Development Corp. and Frank Sciame and John Evans of Sciame Development.

    Sciame Development aims to make it one. A Seaport denizen, Frank Sciame bought 247 Water St. in 1990, made it his headquarters for many years and then converted it to condominiums. The company’s new headquarters are at 80 South St., another Seaport location that will soon harbor an architecturally unique skyscraper.

    Though construction on that tower designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava hasn’t yet begun, Sciame Development is close to completing a project called Historic Front Street, which will bring 95 rental units to market and create about 25,000 square feet of retail space by March.

    The site was one that passed through at least two developers’ hands over the course of decades but will finally go to market in early March.

    Sciame Development, which is working with Zuberry Associates L.L.C. and the Durst Organization, has gone to great lengths to preserve the 18th-century architecture of Front St.

    “We made a conscious effort to keep as much of the historic fabric in place and as exposed as possible,” Evans said.

    Eleven historic buildings were renovated and three new ones built. The development has many facets that might interest potential buyers.

    The exteriors of buildings were maintained and look like they’ve survived two centuries.

    “We tried to reflect the reality of the block as one originally built when the South Street Seaport was the center of world commerce and then went through a century of decline,” Evans said. “Buildings were beat up and had a lot of different lives to them, so we chose to grout-inject the façades, rather than tear them down and rebuild.”

    The buildings were former warehouses and, as much as possible, the interiors were preserved. The timber framing is exposed, as are masonry walls wherever practical. There are even industrial hoists remaining in some units.

    Yet interiors also received an upscale finish befitting luxury apartments, including wood floors, stone counters, marble baths and stainless steel appliances.

    “In the interior, we tried to bring out the history in a very refined way,” Evans said.

    The three new buildings constructed were not made to look like 18th-century buildings, but were designed to fit into the context of nautical Front St. There are only four penthouses in the entire development.

    And the building at Front St. and Peck Slip was designed by architect Richard Cook to give the impression of a ship moored against a warehouse.

    That’s because all the streets called “slips” in the Seaport area were once water, and later, inlets where ships could harbor. The original coast of Manhattan lay at Pearl St. but was extended by ambitious Dutch and English settlers.

    The Seaman’s Church Institute at 241 Water St., also built by Sciame, has a similar ocean liner design.

    Principals in the Historic Front Street project hope this blend of historic preservation and innovative architecture will draw the masses back to New York’s eastern waterfront.

    “These are designed to bring the New York community down to the water,” said Richard S. Berry, managing member of Zuberry Associates.

    Another reason the project has been closely watched is its “green” design, Berry said. The use of a geothermal heating system on rather small, historic buildings is new. It’s also perfect for historic buildings that would be otherwise marred by cooling and heating towers and other bulky rooftop equipment.

    Berry said that unlike the green buildings being built in Battery Park City, which is close to the Hudson River, developers at Historic Front Street had to carve 10 wells about 1,500 feet into the ground to provide enough surface area for cooling and heating. The project is breaking new ground.

    “We have our fingers crossed,” Berry said. “It’s just never been done to this extent.”

    And that’s not everything that’s green about the project. The Historic Front Street buildings also use photovoltaics, which are solar cells. They will have green roofs in five years, a time restriction mandated by the federal government, which regulates historic buildings.

    Those types of limiting rules also guide building size.

    “Scale was very important to us,” Evans said.

    Building heights in the South Street Seaport Historic District, which stretches from the Brooklyn Bridge to Fulton Street and from South to Pearl Sts., were limited to 120 feet by zoning regulations passed in 2003. That’s a 25 percent increase over the tallest building in the Seaport, which is 91 feet.

    Yet the move still irks at least one property owner in the Seaport area, the Milstein family, which owns the historic district’s largest vacant lot at 250 Water St. The family would like to build a 23-story residential tower there.

    The Milsteins sued to block the 120-foot zoning rule, but they have not yet decided to appeal a decision issued against them in September.

    Evans said Sciame and partners bought the historic Front St. lots with the height restrictions in place, and they have no regrets. The project was financed with $46 million in tax-free Liberty Bonds, a post-9/11 fund that requires the units to be rentals.

    Some residents have criticized what they see as the creation of a potentially transient block due to its rental nature, but most have supported the development.

    “These units are really designed for people we think will stay around for quite a long time,” Berry said. “They have washer-dryers; they have home-office type uses; they’re multi-bedroom; they’re really meant to be homes.”

    Paul Goldstein, district manager of Community Board 1, said residents would have chosen co-ops or condominiums had they the opportunity, but the federal Liberty Bond legislation was prohibitive.

    “We would have preferred that the legislation was more flexible,” he said. “That was a mistake, probably, in the drafting of the legislation.”

    Units at Historic Front Street range in size from 600 to 1,400 square feet and are mostly one- and two-bedroom apartments. Developers believe one bedroom apartments may cost $2,400 to $3,000 a month, while two bedroom units may pull in $3,500 to $5,500 a month.

    “Some of the units have just tremendous outdoor space which is really what sets off the high end,” Evans said. “There’s 500 to 700 square feet of outdoor space for some of these penthouses.”

    Even as Sciame and its partners are preparing to sell these apartments, they have questions about the fate of the South Street Seaport. The Fulton Fish Market, a mainstay, will soon vacate the Seaport, leaving the future of two large buildings undetermined. The Rouse Company, which has operated the Seaport since the 1970s, was recently bought out by General Growth Properties, a company that manages malls nationwide.

    A rumored collaboration among the city, Rouse and one of Manhattan’s largest developers, The Related Companies, which proposed bringing the Cirque du Soleil to the Seaport, may be dead. Neither Rouse nor General Growth Properties returned phone calls regarding the future of the South Street Seaport.

    “There’s a huge chunk of the waterfront that’s going to become available, and that’s very sensitive in terms of whose needs this will meet,” Evans said. “Will it be a tourist need? A residential need? A commercial need? Or perhaps something that blends all three.”

    The city appears to be committed to preserving what’s left of a commercial center that thrived starting in the 16th century and continued to fire the imaginations of New Yorkers even a century after its decline in the late 19th century. The revitalization of the Seaport is only one small part of monumental plans to rebuild all of Lower Manhattan since the 9/11 attacks.

    Included in that vision are plans to overhaul the East River waterfront, including possibly creating a wading pool among the cobblestones of Peck Slip. Tearing down the biggest obstacle to the river, the F.D.R. drive, has been notably absent from the city’s plan, though some design-minded residents of the Seaport have lobbied for it.

    Sciame Development expects to begin construction on the Calatrava “Townhouses in the Sky” project in 2005 at 80 South St., Sciame’s latest headquarters.

    The upscale tower, designed by Calatrava, may well be a barometer of just what the real estate market will bear in the South Street Seaport area.

    It’s the Seaport’s first attempt at a luxury residence.

    “The Calatrava project says, look, Downtown is one of New York’s most dynamic neighborhoods, and because of that, projects like this are justified,” Evans said.

    Developers hope to rake in $35 million for each of 10 cube-shaped townhouses stacked in the 835-foot high-rise, which also includes two retail spaces. They hope to capitalize on lovely views and spaces that can be tailored down to the smallest detail to suit any buyer’s tastes.

    “We’re not actually selling real estate,” broker Ayesha Kahn said. “When you look at the building, you realize you’re buying a piece of art.”

    Not all current residents of the Seaport are thrilled with the changes that are taking place in the neighborhood.

    Joe Bradshaw moved into Southbridge Towers, a Mitchell-Lama rental building on the edge of the Seaport, in 1973 after he was released from his tour of duty in Vietnam.

    Bradshaw, whose wife is a painter who documents historic New York, said many of his neighbors want to cash in on the skyrocketing appreciation rates on Seaport properties by taking the 1,651-unit co-op private.

    But that doesn’t sit well with him.

    “A lot of things change, I guess for the better, but you lose a piece of history,” Bradshaw said. “I think the older residents feel a little scared that they may be pushed out.”

    Buildings like the proposed tower at 80 South St. alarm residents, Bradshaw said.

    “I think people feel like [the Seaport] has become a little too cosmopolitan, a little too mall-ish, a little too suburban,” Bradshaw said. “A lot of them are the Jewish, Italian, Irish older immigrants who grew up in the area, looking out for each others backs, and they feel like a lot of the camaraderie is lost.”

    But Bradshaw is also an owner of PJ Kelly’s, a popular pub at 90 Fulton St., so he can’t be too down on plans to rejuvenate Lower Manhattan. He supports a currently unfunded city-Lower Manhatan Deveolopment Corporation initiative to upgrade Fulton St., the primary artery into the Seaport, into a major east-west corridor in Lower Manhattan.

    “I think it’s good for the area,” he said.




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  2. #2

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    I like a couple of things mentioned in the article.

    I like how 80 South Street is on the fast-track for construction in 2005. I can’t believe this is an attainable reality, it was initially proposed to start in 2006. I like how it has kept a low-profile and how there is no “real” opposition to it other than, it’ll change the neighborhood, duh. I suppose however the residents know what we do, that the tower could’ve been much larger if Sciame combined the air-rights of neighboring buildings that he already owns. Its also the nature of Sciame himself, he’s not Donald Trump, he’s a CUNY graduate whose only ambition is to put a piece of art on the downtown waterfront and restore the skyline. The very nature of the design guarantees either a failure or at the very least breaking even.


    I’m also very very happy to learn the proposal for a mall has fallen through at the Fulton Fish Market. This is a sleeper site; surely its size and value is a subject of contention. However I agree with the current notion for the site that it combine retail, residential, and commercial, and be fully functional as mixed use. I’ve never been a fan of the South Street Seaport, it’s touristy and completely wrong for the area, its an attempt at Boston’s Wharf and Quincy Market, both of which I hate. Something that offers something, not everything to the tourist is ideal. For instance I like the free tours offered at the South Street Seaport. However the focus has to be on what’s best for the city, the area is at a unique juxtaposition, and a combination of commercial, residential, and retail would best suit it.

  3. #3

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    Good news for the area. I wonder what's going to happen on the piers of the unrealized Guggenheim proposal. 80 South Street was always slated to start in 2005 (though I never didn't believe it) and slated for completion late 2006, early 2007.

  4. #4

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    80 South Street was always slated to start in 2005 (though I never didn't believe it) and slated for completion late 2006, early 2007.

    Sciame’s all-time most daring enterprise is the tower. If all goes well, construction could begin as soon as late next year or early 2006 and take two years.
    "It will take about 18 months to build and after saying he would start in 2005, Sciame immediately amended that to 2006. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself I have enough of that from clients,” he said. "
    2005 was the optimistic start-date but depending on how everything came together (design, approval, financing) a 2006 start date was more realistic. I’m glad everything is together and construction can start in a number of months.

  5. #5

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    The developer of 80 South Street has been very inteligent in his doings compared to those of his fellow, more cumbersome cohorts. This will be a very exciting building to watch going up, not only for its location but presence and over all symbolism. Great article. P.S., I really dont get the feel that the sea port feels, "suburban". Does anyone else share that take?

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    The city appears to be committed to preserving what’s left of a commercial center that thrived starting in the 16th century
    Whaaaaa?

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    I don't know why the Liberty Bonds would require rentals. NYC should promote more ownership. Anyway, while the seaport is too touristy, I would love to see Cirque there. It would be a huge draw to all of Lower Manhattan.

  8. #8

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    An incredible amount of construction activity on Front St between Beekman St and Peck Sllip. It seems like every building, including the street, is being worked on.

    Views are south and west from Peck Slip.
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    This is all "one" development, by Sciame (of soon-to-be 80 South St. fame).

  10. #10

    Default New Construction High Rise in Seaport area

    I was searching Craig's list and saw a new 51 story luxury high rise taking applications for march 1st occupancy around south street seaport area. I was wondering if anyone knows where this new high rise is located?

  11. #11

  12. #12

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    http://www.downtownexpress.com/

    Firm dips its toes in Seaport waters

    By Ronda Kaysen

    South Street Seaport may soon get some serious attention. General Growth Properties, the retail giant that acquired the property last year, has been making the rounds with various city and community officials and may unveil plans for the area as early as this summer.

    “General Growth is ecstatic about the prospect of owning the South Street Seaport, they’re very excited about having a presence in Lower Manhattan,” said Michael Piazzola, whom General Growth retained as general manager of the Seaport Marketplace when it took over last November.

    When Maryland-based General Growth acquired the Rouse Company last year for $12.6 billion, it also took ownership of the Seaport Marketplace, Pier 17 and first refusal rights to the city-owned Tin Building and Fulton Fish Market stalls, once the Fish Market leaves.

    General Growth has remained decidedly tight-lipped about its plans for the area, but recent informal discussions with officials from the Downtown Alliance, Community Board 1 and the Economic Development Corporation indicate that the company plans to focus its attention on the area, which has long been characterized by a noted lack of appeal.

    The company recently hired Beyer Blinder Belle, the large architectural and planning firm known for its preservation work, as a design consultant, said Paul Goldstein, C.B. 1’s district manager.

    General Growth “thinks some major changes are due and so do we,” Goldstein said. General Growth, says Goldstein, hopes to present concept plans to C.B. 1 by the summer, and has its eyes on the Tin Building and Market stalls. “They are definitely interested in utilizing that space,” Goldstein said.

    The Seaport area suffers from a profound lack of neighborhood-appropriate retail, said Goldstein. The prospect of General Growth — the second largest publicly traded retail investment firm in the country with 217 shopping centers nationwide — taking the helm is heartening, he added. “That’s what they do, they run shopping malls,” he said. “There is some feeling to let them do what they do best.”

    “General Growth has centers that appeal to every demographic,” said Piazzola, who anticipates a mixture of national and local retailers to fill the area. However, “It is too early to publicly discuss or reveal what those plans or discussions have entailed to date.” Piazzola and Michael McNaughton of General Growth, who is spearheading the Seaport redevelopment project, have met with Downtown leaders and city officials in recent weeks.

    Frank Sciame, a prominent Seaport developer, hopes to see a cultural center added to the area. “I’d like to see things that enhance the 24-7 neighborhood and that really make it a New York experience rather than a tourist destination,” he said in a telephone interview. “Something that would be cultural and attract New Yorkers.”

    Sciame is currently at work on two residential projects in the area — a luxury condo tower designed by Santiago Calatrava at 80 South St., which is awaiting approval from the state Attorney General’s office this spring, and Historic Front Street, a 95-unit rental project, which includes the restoration of historic buildings and should be complete by May.

    General Growth will unveil its plans for the area at the International Council of Shopping Centers international convention in Las Vegas this May, according to Faith Hope Consolo, chairperson of the retail leasing and sales division for Prudential Douglas Elliman.

    The area needs a variety of retail, added Consolo. “Now that New Yorkers are much more sophisticated, they need a wonderful cultural experience, a wonderful home furnishings store, a Whole Foods, an IKEA.”

    So long as General Growth respects the architectural character of the neighborhood — mainly low-lying historic buildings — Goldstein expects the community to respond favorably to their plans.

    “Downtown Alliance is enthusiastic about their plans for the area,” said Tom Nardacci, a spokesperson for the Alliance, of a recent meeting with General Growth and Downtown Alliance president Carl Weisbrod. “We look forward to this moving forward.”

    Some of the tenants of Pier 17, one of General Growth’s newly acquired properties, are wary of their landlord’s intentions, however. Several tenants lodged a lawsuit against Rouse shortly before General Growth purchased the company, alleging Rouse engaged in “fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, bad faith and unfair dealing.” A court date is scheduled for March 31.

    “We have heard all this before,” said Mike Flanagan, a co-owner of MacMenamin’s Irish Pub at Pier 17 and a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Rouse. “The good times are always two or three years away.”

    A source close to the project that requested anonymity thinks details are less than forthcoming from General Growth specifically because of the ongoing litigation by Pier 17 tenants. Any ideas General Growth fields, said the source, may be stymied by disgruntled tenants.

    Consolo sees no reason why the lawsuit would have any effect whatsoever on a company of General Growth’s size and scope. “This lawsuit is nothing to [General Growth.] This is a few disgruntled shopkeepers,” she said. “Whether [the tenants] are justified or not, they’ve had hell to deal with. I don’t blame them” for filing suit.

    The tenants’ chief grievance has been a steady decline in traffic to Pier 17 and a slow exodus of retailers from the four-story structure.

    General Growth’s measured pace is not a hindrance for everyone, however. The city has its own plans for the seaport area, including a $150 million redevelopment project for the East River waterfront. “In some ways it works to our advantage” that General Growth does not have a plan yet, Michael Samuelian, director of Lower Manhattan special projects, said at a recent C.B. 1 meeting. “If we have a concept already developed, General Growth needs to fold into our concept.”

    Ronda@DowntownExpress.com

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    A Mall in Decline Eyes Fish-Market Space

    By WILLIAM NEUMAN

    Published: July 3, 2005

    THE South Street Seaport has long been perceived as a mall in decline - but fortunes there could begin to change this summer when the neighboring Fulton Fish Market is expected to move to the Bronx, creating an opportunity for the shopping center's owner to expand and revive the Seaport.

    The mall's owner, General Growth Properties, a large real estate investment trust, has told the city that it plans to exercise an option in its lease to take over portions of the fish market, including the Tin Building on Pier 17, which has landmark status, and several brick fish market stalls on South Street, city officials and a mall executive say.

    In preparation, the company has hired the architecture firm of Beyer Blinder Belle to come up with a plan for an expanded and possibly reconfigured Seaport, according to Michael Piazzola, vice president and general manager of Seaport Marketplace, the company that operates the mall for General Growth. Beyer Blinder Belle has been asked to find ways that the new properties can be incorporated into the current complex, which includes a series of shops and restaurants along Fulton and Front Streets and a three-tier mall on Pier 17, in the East River.

    "They're basically on a fact-finding mission to understand what the development potential of the site is, what the as-of-right looks like and what the potential is over and above what the zoning allows today," Mr. Piazzola said.

    General Growth has also met with members of Community Board 1, which covers Lower Manhattan, and the city's Economic Development Corporation, to discuss possible Seaport changes. "There's this desire for more than just retail," Mr. Piazzola said. Possible uses include restaurants, cultural venues and housing, he said.

    The company has six months after the fish market departs to exercise its lease option. The market, which has been on South Street for more than 180 years, is scheduled to move to a new facility in Hunts Point in the Bronx this summer, although the move has already been postponed several times.

    The Chicago-based General Growth took over the Seaport last November, when it acquired the Rouse Company, which created the mall. The Seaport was developed in 1983 on property leased from the city.

    Some ideas for an expanded Seaport had already been explored by Rouse, which last year was on the verge of a deal with the Related Companies and the city to knock down the Pier 17 mall and replace it with a theater for Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal-based avant-garde circus. General Growth opted not to follow through with that deal when it bought Rouse.

    The Rouse plan, however, is a focus of a lawsuit filed against the mall operator by a group of Pier 17 merchants last fall in state Supreme Court in Manhattan seeking $80 million in damages. General Growth has inherited the lawsuit, in which the tenants charge that Rouse overbilled them for a variety of charges, misappropriated funds meant to promote the Seaport and sought to drive away tenants to clear the way for its planned redevelopment.

    The tenants who filed the suit say they were never informed of the talks between Rouse, Related and the city, which included provisions to buy them out or have the state condemn their leases. General Growth has pursued eviction proceedings against several merchants involved in the lawsuit, claiming that they have fallen behind on payments or that their leases had expired.

    David Keating, a General Growth spokesman, refused to discuss the suit or the company's redevelopment plans. Lawyers for the company have asked a judge to dismiss portions of the lawsuit and say the charges are unfounded.

    Gerry Nally, who owns the Seaport Watch Company in the Pier 17 mall, is a prime mover behind the lawsuit. He says that his sales dropped 37 percent from 2000 through 2004. In that period, he says, promotional events at the mall became less frequent or declined in quality and stores offering less-upscale products were added at the mall.

    The Seaport, covering 260,000 square feet, is really two malls in one. Merchants on the terra firma portion of the mall, on and around Fulton Street, have not joined the lawsuit and apparently have not had the same problems. Complaints are concentrated on Pier 17, which has always had a greater challenge attracting customers because it is more out of the way.

    Merchants on the pier also say escalators installed in 2000 routinely break down. And they complain that General Growth has continued a pattern, first established by Rouse, of renting out many stores on short-term leases for far below what the more established merchants are paying. Mr. Nally estimated that about half of the pier's tenants are on short-term leases. These short-term tenants include T-shirt shops, a bonsai shop and a poster gallery.

    Mr. Piazzola said General Growth "has a very aggressive specialty leasing division" that has a standing relationship with small retailers that may take temporary space in several malls at one time, or move from mall to mall as space becomes available. "That drives a lot of revenue for the company, and by its very nature specialty leasing deals are short term," he said.

    Asked if maintaining short-term leaseholders at Pier 17 was part of a larger strategy, he said, "At the end of the day we've hired an architect, we're planning on repositioning the project in the marketplace and the landlord has every right to maintain its flexibility with regard to its occupancy."

    Meanwhile, retail brokers said the Seaport is off the radar screen of high-end retailers seeking space in Manhattan. "Brokers go to other areas where the retailers want to go," said Benjamin Fox, executive vice president of Newmark Retail. He pointed to heavy competition for shoppers from areas like Times Square and said the Seaport must find a way to distinguish itself.

    Matthew Ostrower, an analyst with Morgan Stanley who specializes in the retail sector, said General Growth is the second largest retail REIT in the country. "Redeveloping mall assets is their bread and butter: buying a 'B' mall and trying to turn it into an 'A' mall, buying a 'C' mall and trying to turn it in to a 'B' mall," he said.



    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  14. #14

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    does anyone have any recent pics of "historic front street"?

  15. #15

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    Progress on Front St.



    Beekman St




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