Chelsea Market Developer Could Ditch Hotel Plan

By Mathew Katz on April 17, 2012 9:30am 

A rendering of a modified version of Chelsea Market's expansion on Ninth Avenue, with the nine-story hotel on the left and the seven-story alternative office building on the right.
A rendering of a modified version of Chelsea Market's expansion on Ninth Avenue, with the nine-story hotel on the left and the seven-story alternative office building on the right.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

CHELSEA — A proposed hotel may soon be dropped from the controversial plan to expand Chelsea Market.

At the first Community Board 4 meeting on the expansion since the Chelsea Market plans were certified by the Department of City Planning, a representative from landlord Jamestown Properties said it would scrap the nine-story hotel on the Ninth Avenue side of the building if the board asked it to.

"If the community board’s recommendation is that it be something other than a hotel, then I think that Jamestown would agree to that recommendation," said Melanie Meyers, an attorney for Jamestown.

Instead of the proposed 90,000-square-foot, nine-story hotel, Meyers presented an alternative seven-story, 70,000-square-foot expansion that would instead house office space.

During a packed meeting of the CB4 Chelsea Preservation and Planning Committee, Jamestown reps also agreed to a variety of concessions to their proposal to expand Chelsea Market on the Ninth Avenue side as well as add a nine-story, 240,000-square-foot addition for office space on the 10th Avenue side.

In order to build, Jamestown needs the structure to be designated part of the Special West Chelsea District, which requires permission from the City Council. If approved, construction would take about two years and employ roughly 600 union workers, Jamestown officials said.

Over the past year, many residents have said the expansion would be out of character with the historic building at 75 Ninth Ave., and that it would cause rents to rise and increase traffic.

The opposition has become so strong that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn reportedly asked Jamestown to consider getting rid of the hotel.

Several CB4 members have said they oppose the project but believe it may be inevitable. Rather than focus on trying to jettison the plan entirely, they're concentrating on getting significant concessions from Jamestown, including possibly voting to get rid of the hotel.

Both Meyers and Jamestown’s chief operating officer, Michael Phillips, said the company would agree to several other requests from the community, including submitting to a binding agreement to keep the ground-floor concourse dedicated to food and making an effort to win landmark status for parts of the building.

Ian MacGregor and Davis Herron of the Lobster Place came in support of the expansion.
Ian MacGregor and Davis Herron of the Lobster Place came in support of the expansion.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

"The ground-floor concourse gets a huge portion of its revenue from the upper-floor office tenants, that allows the market to stay as dynamic as it does," Phillips said.

The developer pointed toward tangible benefits from the project, including creating hundreds of jobs and a required $19 million donation to the High Line Improvement Fund. Still, committee members were quick to ask Jamestown for commitments to other open space projects in the neighborhood.

"The High Line is not the only thing the community needs," said community board member Joe Restuccia"Yes, we want the High Line to benefit, but it’s not the beginning and the end of everything."

Restuccia also summed up the concerns of many in the audience that the 10th Avenue addition, designed as a floating cube, is too large.

"The 10th Avenue building is still expressing way too much — I think people really feel that [it looks like] you’ve gotten a spaceship almost to land, but not really," he said.

"The scale is just overwhelming. If you can try to cut this down, at least people can talk about it."

Jamestown said it would consider using materials that were more in line with the surrounding buildings, but would not commit to shrinking it significantly.

"We think this additional [space] is essential in growing the technology and media sector of our tenancy," Phillips said.

Despite Jamestown’s concessions, many groups were steadfast in their opposition to the project.

"This proposal favors private enrichment over the greater public good," said Lesley Doyel, who heads up Save Chelsea, a neighborhood group that’s helped lead the charge against the market’s expansion.

The meeting was the first of a monthslong process that began when the Department of City Planning certified the project on April 9. It was also notable for being the first event that a significant number of supporters attended. Dozens of people from the local business community came to the meeting wearing "Build It" stickers.

"I think Chelsea Market is a great incubator for small business in New York, an incubator for the community," said Ian MacGregor, president of the Lobster Place, which operates out of the market. 

The next public hearing on the expansion will take place at the full board meeting on May 2.

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