CHELSEA — The City Planning Commission set the stage Monday for the a seven-month-long public review process for the controversial Chelsea Market expansion project, which is expected to pit pro-business supporters and neighborhood opposition groups.
The proposal by Jamestown Properties would put the popular market at 75 Ninth Ave. into the Special West Chelsea District, allowing the landlord to build a nine-floor addition that would provide 240,000 square feet of office space, along with a 90,000-square-foot hotel on the Ninth Avenue side.
The proposal has drawn criticism from neighborhood advocates, claiming it would ruin the character of the historic building, increase traffic and raise rents. But a growing number of business owners within the market have come out in support of it.
Jamestown will also have to donate $19 million to the High Line Improvement Fund if the zoning change goes through, which helped it win Friends of the High Line's support for the project.
Some opponents expressed concern that the building's signature specialty food shops would disappear after an expansion, but in an interview with DNAinfo in March, Jamestown's chief operating officer, Michael Phillips, pledged to maintain the building as a hub of gourmet goods.
"The concourse will not be changed. Changing the concourse was never a plan for us — it makes the building a dynamic, expansive office space," he said. "We love this building."
That hasn't swayed the opposition, as hundreds of neighbors rallied against the project. Even City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who would ultimately have to approve the zoning change, has reportedly expressed her reservations about supporting a proposal that's drawn so much scorn from the neighborhood she represents.
"We strongly believe that the proposed zoning change and expansion of Chelsea Market would greatly harm, rather than help the entire community," said Lesley Doyel, co-President of Save Chelsea, a group leading the charge against the market.
"This proposal favors private enrichment over the greater public good."
The land use approval process will begin with several Community Board 4 meetings that board members expect to be long and heated. The proposal will eventually work its way to the City Council, which will need to approve it in the fall if the expansion is to move forward.
The marathon of meetings kicks off on April 16, at a special 6:30 p.m. meeting of the board's Chelsea Preservation and Planning Committee at the Fulton Auditorium, 119 Ninth Ave. — a much larger venue than the committee's normal meeting place at Penn South.
The board will then make its decision on whether to recommend that the City Planning Department approve the proposal after a public hearing at its May 2 full board meeting. From there, the proposal will go to Borough President Scott Stringer before heading to the City Planning Commission and City Council.