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Chelsea Seminary Sells Off History to Pay Debts

By DNAinfo Staff on December 2, 2010 7:04pm  | Updated on December 3, 2010 6:04am

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CHELSEA — An Anglican seminary plagued by massive debts signed a deal this week that will turn several buildings on its historic West 20th Street block over to a luxury residential developer.

For the nearly 200-year-old General Theological Seminary, which has the bulk of its campus between Ninth and Tenth Avenues and 20th and 21st Streets, the deal was a matter of survival, spokesman Bruce Parker said Thursday.

The institution carries $41 million in debts, a quantity that nearly prevented it from opening for classes this fall, according to Parker. The sale, to the Brodsky Organization, would fully cover those debts, said Parker, who could not provide the total price tag for the deal.

The properties the Seminary is selling off include a residential building known as Chelsea 2, 3, 4, a portion of the schoolyard currently used as a tennis court, and 422 W. 20th Street. The school currently fills the buildings with a mix of dormitories and offices.

The deal is already attracting opposition from some local activists, Chelsea Now reported. Preservationists and elected officials including State Sen. Tom Duane previously battled development on the campus in 2007, when the Seminary proposed a new 17-story tower. The school ultimately elected to erect a smaller building.

For his part, Parker expressed confidence Thursday that the developer would preserve the historic character of the buildings, at least on their exteriors. It remained unclear what kind of residences the buildings would be converted into, but the block is a protected landmark as part of the Chelsea Historic District.

The developer did not return calls for comment.

Next Tuesday, December 7, the Seminary is inviting community members to discuss the sale with Reverend Lang Lowrey, the school’s president. The meeting is slated for 7:30 p.m. at the institution’s Seabury Auditorium.