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Zombie Zapata Lives!
Chelsea tower comes back to life.
Courtesy Carlos Zapata Studio

While the real estate market in New York never stalled as fully as it did in the rest of the country, many projects went on ice. One that seemed unlikely to be revived, a 20-story tower on 23rd street designed by Carlos Zapata, is coming back to life. Initially planned as a hotel by Horizon Global, Abnau Enterprises acquired the lot 39-41 West 23rd for $18.5 million and plans to build the Zapata design as condominiums with ground floor retail.

“Anbau Enterprises’ development philosophy is to create architecturally distinguished buildings that make positive contributions to their neighborhoods. In the case of 39-41 West 23rd Street, we have the ability to bring a brilliant design to life and deliver exceptional, sustainable homes to a neighborhood that is becoming a true 24/7 community,” wrote Barbara van Bueuren and Stephen Glascock, principals at Abnau, in an email. The company is also developing nearby 124 West 23rd, in the belief that Chelsea/Flatiron will continue to perform well as a high-end residential area.

Located in the Ladies Mile Historic district, the Zapata design received approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2005, which was a major incentive for the developers to retain the scheme. “We really like the design and we have a good working relationship with the architect. This is great news for us since the site is in a landmarked district,” Glascock and van Bueuren wrote. “To change the design would mean going through a new two-year-plus approval process with uncertain results.”

The design respects the existing streetwall with a contextually scaled base, topped with an angled glass-clad tower reminiscent of Zapata’s Cooper Square Hotel. “It was important for the Commission and our team to arrive at a set of rules on which to evaluate the design,” Zapata wrote in an email. “Ultimately, we agreed that the design had to be consistent with the evolution of styles in the district, that the building should be representative of our times and make use of modern technologies, and that the design should maintain a level of quality consistent with the best buildings of the district.”

Alan G. Brake