The developer of a commercial tower planned to rise along the western edge of the High Line at 13th Street and Tenth Avenue has dropped its bid to build a significantly larger structure than is allowed by zoning. The proposed tower, to be designed by Chicago-based architecture firm Studio Gang, had sought a variance to build 34 percent larger than is permitted by zoning at 40-56 Tenth Avenue. However, after a number of appearances before the Board of Standards and Appeals, it became clear that approval for the variance would not be forthcoming, according to Howard Goldman, the project’s land use attorney. However, developer William Gottlieb Real Estate is still seeking height and setback variances in its modified application.
“We’ve had four BSA hearings and it just became clear that we weren’t going to get additional FAR,” said Mr. Goldman. “So the request for additional floor area has been dropped from the application, which remains active. We have a hearing scheduled for March.”
The original application had requested an F.A.R. variance, citing the financial hardship presented by building on a sandy site, rather than bedrock. The project will require special, expensive pilings, according to Mr. Goldman, though given the obvious profitability of any project in the Meatpacking District, the BSA was, perhaps understandably, not convinced that such difficulties would make the project economically unfeasible.
Preservationists and neighborhood activists, who had opposed the size variance, which would have permitted a total of 186,700-square feet of office and retail space to be built at the site, viewed the move as a victory. The unlandmarked swaths along the High Line are already in danger of being developed in such a way that light, air and views from the elevated park will be blocked without developers getting variances to build even bigger, argued Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.
“The lower end of the High Line had the most wide open views, but because of very conscious decisions not to include the area in the landmark district, it leaves the sites along the High Line open to unrestricted development,” said Mr. Berman. Though the section where the Studio Gang-designed tower is slated to rise, which will hemmed in by buildings on all four sides, is a rarity, he added.
(The Standard Hotel and the High Line Building at 450 West 14th Street block views to the North and South, while the Romanoff Equities office tower, which received a size variance in 2009, is rising to the east at 437 West 13th Street. Though of the Studio Gang tower, to be built on the western side of the park, principal Jeanne Gang has said that its orientations and setbacks will preserve light and views. “We looked at what we could build as of right and realized that it would block out light, air, and views from the High Line,” she told The Architects Newspaper in 2012. “So we rearranged the building’s mass so that the tallest part to face 10th Avenue.”)
Mr. Berman said that GVSHP does not oppose the height and setback variances.
On the architect’s website, the project, dubbed “Solar Carve” is described as having a “gem-like facade” that is “sculpted based on geometric relationships between the building and the sun’s path, as well as the viewshed between the park and the Hudson.”