Shop and Awe
Is there a clear-cut line between southern Chelsea and the Meatpacking District now that both are no longer gritty?
Not really, says a committee that is trying to launch a new Business Improvement District called Meatpacking Area BID that would treat the two areas as one in order to provide maintenance, development and promotional services.
When Jamestown Properties bought the Falchi Building, a 600,000 square foot former warehouse and distribution center in Long Island City, for a reported $80 million in 2012, there was much speculation that the mixed-use industrial space would become an outer borough version of Chelsea market, which Jamestown also owns.
For many neighbors of the Chelsea Market, the biggest concern over a massive addition to the market was the shape it would take and thus its impact on the High Line, which the market abuts. Love it or hate it, the High Line had become a major neighborhood amenity, one people did not want to see get any worse with a massive eight-story addition overhanging it.
Developer Jamestown Properties acceded to demands from the City Planning Commission—which oversaw the rezoning that helped preserve the High Line—to rejigger the building, so what kind of concessions could Council Speaker Christine Quinn possibly extract? Especially since she had reportedly waffled on whether or not to beat back the building entirely as she eyes crossing over to the other side of City Hall.
Well, what better way to appease NIMBYs and preservationists than with architectural protections and schools?
Gettin' High Line
Much of the debate around the expansion of the Chelsea Market has centered around not the former Nasbisco factory turned popular shopping center (and subsequent tourist attraction), but the old railroad trestle next to it.
Part of the justification for expanding the market by 25 percent was that, in addition to providing construction jobs and new office space for the city’s booming tech sector, the developer of the project, Jamestown Properties, would pay about $19 million to the High Line, to help fund ongoing maintenance. But there was also great community outcry over the fact that much of the new addition would be built on the 10th Avenue side of Chelsea Market, directly overhanging the High Line.
Earlier today, the City Planning Commission unanimously approved the project’s expansion, and addressed a few of these concerns.
A proposed expansion of the Chelsea Market is as big as some of its neighbors. Does that make it acceptable?
Jamestown Properties wants to add an eight-story addition onto the western end of the former Nabisco factory, which already is seven stories tall and encircles the High Line. Jamestown argues it should be allowed to match its taller neighbors, sating demand for techie office space. Locals counter that to do so would rob the High Line of the light and air and views that help make it more than a glorified Midtown sidewalk.
Borough President Scott Stringer has decided to side with them, voting against Jamestown’s proposal to expand. Among the recommendations he made yesterday to the City Planning Commission is that the bulk of the project should be shifted to the Ninth Avenue section of the building, where Jamestown has already proposed adding a hotel above Buddakkan—another feature Mr. Stringer wants eliminated.
Walking the High Line can be maddening and miraculous, often all at once. The crowds, the new buildings crowding out the views of the Hudson, all atop a highly manicured railroad trestle. Some park.
Yet it remains one of the best places to take in the city and its people—a big part of the reason the park attracts 3 million visitors a year, 10 times the original estimate, and has generated more than $2 billion in economic development.
The project could be considered one of the most successful real estate initiatives since Park Avenue was built by the Grand Central Railroad. And some day, probably sooner than most people realize, walking the High Line will be not unlike strolling down Park Avenue, with a wall of buildings on either side. And still, it will be the city’s new premier address.
Into this renaissance lumbers the Chelsea Market, the project that in many ways made this transformation possible when it opened two decades ago. Now it wants its share of the action, just like everybody else, planting itself on the High Line.
Jamestown Properties announced yesterday that it has signed China New Media Company, a rapidly growing Chinese outdoor media company, to a one-year lease deal for a 684-foot LED screen on the 1 Times Square building.
The sign, which will be lit to the world on March 1, will be China New Media Company’s first digital signage outside of China, the company announced in a press release yesterday.
Jamestown Properties and Rockwood Capital, along with Crown Acquisitions and Murray Hill Properties, finalized their deal to purchase 530 Fifth Avenue for a reported $390 million, officials said.
The property, which was previously owned by Joseph Moinian and the Chetrit Group, will receive a $20 million renovation to upgrade the building.
The battle to expand Chelsea Market has once again come to a head—a giant glassy head. Neighborhood residents are none too pleased with Jamestown Properties’ plans, which call for 250,000 square feet of office space to be added to the existing Ninth Avenue structure and the construction of a neighboring twelve-story hotel.
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