Chelsea Market Expansion Foes Gear Up for a Fight

By Mathew Katz on January 25, 2012 7:34am 

CHELSEA — After months of heated debate, Jamestown Properties is launching the public process required before it can build a towering expansion of Chelsea Market — and all sides are gearing up for a fight.

Jamestown Properties hopes to construct a nine-story addition over the west side of the existing historic building at 75 Ninth Ave. The company has led a public relations blitz aimed at convincing the public — and the City Council — to support its rezoning application for Chelsea Market.

But before Jamestown can build, the council would need to rezone the market as part of the Special West Chelsea District, which was originally created to enable construction of the High Line.

Community Board 4 is hosting a meeting about the proposed change Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Fulton Auditorium, 119 Ninth Ave.

Jamestown's grand plan calls for a new tiered structure that would span 34,000 square feet at its base and narrow to 17,000 square feet on the top two stories. The company envisions the project as a hub for high-tech companies — serviced by a new hotel.

The "Chelsea Market Coalition," a collection of heavy-hitting business groups Jamestown Properties assembled, supports the expansion project.

"Chelsea is one of the most dynamic mixed-used neighborhoods in the city and we welcome the addition of more than 1,200 people who would be employed full-time in the proposed office space and hotel," said Tony Juliano, chairman of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, a coalition member.

Other coalition members include the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, the Real Estate Board of New York, and The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.

Jamestown's rezoning application also needs to be certified by the Department of City Planning.

Not everyone is convinced by Jamestown's promises. Opponents fear that the expansion will drive up rents, block light to the neighborhood and appear out of character with the historic building.

"I’m not surprised. When I see the names involved [in Jamestown's coalition], my reaction is, of course, they’re gonna do this," said Lesley Doyel, who runs Save Chelsea, a community group leading the fight against the expansion.

In December, Jamestown toned down its expansion plans, reducing it from 11 floors to nine, and reworking a proposed glass cube so it's more in line with the building's color scheme.

That wasn't enough, opponents said. 

Doyel said Save Chelsea plans to have a strong showing at Wednesday's meeting, along with any other meetings that are required as part of the months-long rezoning process.

The city expects public hearings to begin within the next few months.

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