After a tumultuous first round, Jamestown Properties presented new plans for Chelsea Market by STUDIOS Architecture in December. Initial proposals had taken a beating in the local press and at community meetings upset with both the scale and the modern, cantilevered design, sending the developer and architect back to regroup and redesign. The team went on a listening tour with community organizations before finalizing the latest $194.5 million proposal.
STUDIOS principal David Burns said that much of the new design focuses on reconfiguring the 330,000-square-foot massing with cues taken from structures such as the old Nabisco building itself as well as the High Line. The existing market is an amalgam of former warehouses and factories of varying sizes. The architect’s challenge was to integrate the new structure, starting on the ground at 16th Street then partly cantilevering over the older structures, into the original assemblage.
Along Ninth Avenue, the hotel segment of the mixed-use plan wraps around the north side of the old building with a blond masonry expression. Punched horizontal window openings attempt to mimic those of an original red brick structure, though only loosely, as the new window widths frequently stretch into wide horizontal strips. A large midsection glass-clad cutout resolves connections between a three-story section of the old building that sits mid-block and a much larger eight-story structure to the south. At the ninth floor, the building sets back to take on another two stories in charcoal-colored stone.
The architecture holds its cards close until Tenth Avenue, where an impressive cantilevered form juts out over the old structure, with a huge negative gap separating the market from the new tower. “The space between the two buildings creates a clean datum that breaks the old and the new; the openness celebrates this,” said Burns. The gap also presents an opportunity for the surface beneath the new building, represented in renderings through a grid of lights. The large, exposed trusses hint at a complex tripod-like design in which the elevator core acts as an anchor. The trussed structure forms a box that sits within a larger box set back to the east. Delicate solar shading clads the easternmost form. Besides the trusses, the green-roofed setbacks reference the High Line just below.
Last September, Jamestown released an economic impact report from Appleseed, the same research firm retained by New York University to argue their case for a Greenwich Village expansion. The report predicts how the 330,000 square feet of new commercial space atop the existing 750,000 would be a boon to the local economy, particularly for the area’s growing media and tech industry. (Google owns nearly 3 million square feet just across the street.) The report noted that the 150-room hotel component of the proposal would be geared toward such new businesses. The report added that the proposed 240,000 square feet of office space would feed that industry’s demand for unconventional office space.
The ULURP process will begin in earnest in January, with the building needing special zoning to be included in the Special West Chelsea District, which was created in 2005 to spur growth near the soon-to-be High Line. The developer hopes to persuade the community that the area can withstand another mixed-use hotel/office development and the traffic that comes with it. Some in the neighborhood feel the area is already at a traffic tipping point. “Nobody could have foreseen in 2005 the massive redevelopment that would take place,” said Leslie Doyle of Save Chelsea. “We think the Chelsea Market was already redeveloped beautifully. It’s a wonderful example of adaptive reuse; it doesn’t need to be redeveloped again.”