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Adaptive Reuse in Chelsea

Simply put, adaptive reuse is defined as the process of adapting old structure for new uses.  From a preservation perspective, adaptive reuse is often a wonderful way to preserve historic buildings while still updating them for modern living or working.  It is also an effective way to reduce urban sprawl and environmental impact.

There are several large scale examples of adaptive reuse in the Village including the Westbeth artists’ residence, the Archive’s Building, the Jefferson Market Library, and GVSHP’s very own office building.

Examples of adaptive reuse in the Village- R: Westbeth; L: Jefferson Market Library

Just outside of the Gansevoort Market Historic District lies another big example of such developement- Chelsea Market, which is currently in danger of losing its intact historic charm.  According to a recent GVSHP blog post, “The complex was built over several decades for the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), and was part of their larger holdings in the area.”   The story of how this factory building became the foodie haven that we know it as today is best described by the history on ChelseaMarket.com:

By 1958, National Biscuit was producing its line from a plant in Fair Lawn, N.J., and in 1959 it sold its New York complex – 22 structures, with 2 million square feet – to the investor Louis J. Glickman. Telephone listings from the 1970’s and 80’s list no baking operations, only light industrial tenants, in an area that was sliding into a sort of Rust Belt-like graveyard.

In the 1990’s, the investor Irwin B. Cohen organized a syndicate to buy the principal National Biscuit buildings, from Ninth to 11th Avenue and 15th to 16th Street. Over the next several years Mr. Cohen reinvented the older complex, between Ninth and 10th Avenue, re-renting the upper floors to an emerging group of technology companies.   On the ground floor, he and his designers, Vandeberg Architects, created a long interior arcade of food stores.

views of Chelsea Market today

Today this building’s great history and transformation are at risk of being compromised due to a requested upzoning which would allow the addition of hundreds of thousands of square feet of office and hotel space in two towers  atop the historic complex.  This Wednesday, July 25 at 10am, the City Planning Commission will hold its sole public hearing on the proposal.  Because the current Chelsea Market complex is actually larger than the zoning allows, the City Planning Commission, along with the City Council, must approve the upzoning in order for any new development to take place on this site.  It’s critical that there is a strong turnout at the hearing to urge the City Planning Commission to reject the rezoning request.  Last week Borough President Stringer recommended denial of the rezoning application unless the developer eliminated the proposed 10th Avenue tower and moved the bulk to 9th Avenue instead.  While we agree that the proposed 10th Avenue tower is inappropriate, moving the bulk to 9th Avenue to allow a nearly 200 foot tall addition to the complex is not a solution!

L: Proposed Office Building Addition to Chelsea Market 10th Avenue End; R: Proposed Hotel Addition to Chelsea Market, as seen from 9th Avenue

To find out more on how to get involved in this issue, CLICK HERE.  We hope to see you on Wednesday at the hearing!

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