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03.20.2011
Filling Out the Chelsea Market
Developer to add two towers to local landmark in Chelsea.
Courtesy Jamestown Properties

Chelsea Market, a cookie factory conversion that egged on the transformation of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District in the late 1990s, is now facing another reinvention, as Atlanta-based Jamestown Properties contemplates adding two towers atop the 1913 brick building where Nabisco invented the Oreo. While details remain scarce—Jamestown said a feasibility study is currently being prepared—neighbors are watching carefully as development continues to envelope the once seedy district.

Jamestown increased their investment in Chelsea Market after it sold a majority stake in the facing 111 Eighth Avenue to Google in a deal valued at $1.9 billion overall, the largest single-building sale in the United States in 2010.

Jessica Foreman, a spokesperson for Jamestown, said the massive 1.2 million square foot Chelsea Market can accommodate another 330,000 square feet under its current zoning. Or, as Michael Phillips, managing director at Jamestown, told the Wall Street Journal in February,“It’s not a fully completed asset.”

An enclave of gourmet retailers, production companies, and public art, Chelsea Market occupies an entire block bound by 15th and 16th streets and 9th and 10th avenues. Lesley Doyel, co-president of Save Chelsea, said the market has been a force of good for the neighborhood. “It was something of a wasteland down there before the Chelsea Market. It created a bridge between Chelsea and the West Village,” she said.

Doyel learned of plans to enlarge the market in late January when community leaders discussed that a 23-story tower could be built on the site, raising concerns that the area could become a canyon of new towers. “It came as a pretty big surprise to all of us,” Doyel said. “We feel there is a tidal wave of development happening in the area.”

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said neighborhood context should guide growth. “Chelsea Market is already an extremely large building,” he said. “Adding two large towers would be out of balance with the residential neighborhood to the north and the surrounding low-rise historic district.”

Situated one block north of the Gansevoort Market Historic District, the Chelea Market building is not subject to landmarks oversight, which stymied a twisting tower designed by Morris Adjmi two blocks away.

Still, Save Chelsea is not opposed to an addition at Chelsea Market. Doyel said she looks forward to more community input as plans move forward. “I hope for a transparent process,” she said. “We would like to be heard.”

Branden Klayko