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After a Divisive Exit, A Builder Returns

Mars Bar and Avalon BoweryIan Duncan The site BFC will develop, 11-17 Second Avenue – the current home of Mars Bar – is squeezed in among the much larger Avalon Bowery Place development

For Donald Capoccia, the developer behind 11-17 Second Avenue — the new apartment complex to be built on the current site of Mars Bar — the project is a return, after a decade away, to the East Village — the neighborhood where he launched his career and where he left his mark during the gentrification of the late 1990’s.

BFC Partners, Mr. Capoccia’s company, was responsible for the construction of hundreds of units of affordable housing in the East Village at a time when property values in the area were taking off. But the firm also became mired in a bitter dispute with residents over the destruction of community gardens to make way for Eastville Gardens, a mixed income development on Avenue C between East Seventh and East Eighth Streets.

Despite some rumblings over the loss of Mars Bar, a relic of the rough-and-tumble East Village of the 1980’s, the reception for the current project could hardly have been more different. In the past decade, the neighborhood has changed dramatically: when the 12-story building rises, it will stand among the much larger Avalon development on East Houston and Bowery. So far, BFC’s plan is going smoothly and Mr. Capoccia stands by his record.

“Housing production of that type in a neighborhood that was changing so rapidly is a great asset,” Mr. Capoccia said in a recent interview. Referring to low-income owners of units at the co-op he added, “community gardens are also a good asset but what was going on in the East Village then and where we are today, clearly a lot of these people wouldn’t be able to afford to live in the neighborhood.”
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