There is good news and bad news to report regarding the zoning variances being sought for an extra-large glass office tower with a huge “big-box” retail space at 437 West 13th Street in the Meatpacking District.
The good news: after months of opposition by GVSHP and other community groups, the size of the proposed development and variances (zoning exemptions) have been consistently slashed. From a 250 ft. tall building 66% larger than allowed by zoning, the plan has gradually been cut to 175 ft. tall and 24% larger than allowed by zoning — a 30% reduction in the height of the building, and a 64% reduction in the amount of extra bulk being sought. The planned retail space has also been cut from triple the allowable size to double — a 50% decrease. This would not have happened without your persistent support and advocacy.
The bad news, however, is that the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals today approved these reduced variances, allowing the now-reduced (but still larger than zoning allows) development to move ahead. GVSHP has continued to oppose ANY variances allowing ANY increase in the allowable size of the building or the retail space beyond what the zoning currently allows. We have argued that the developer’s claim that the presence of the High Line on his property created a “hardship” warranting these variances, is false, and that allowing the oversized retail and extra-large building would negatively affect the character of the Meatpacking District — with increased traffic, out-of-scale development, and “big-box” stores. An earlier version of the developers plans can be seen HERE, while the final approved plans (the design remains the same though the dimensions have shrunk) can be seen HERE. In addition to the tower remaining all glass on three sides (designed by the architect of 7 World Trade Center), the planned north wall facing the Gansevoort Market Historic District remains blank and windowless, and we fear will end up being rented out for billboard space.
This development should never have been allowed in the first place. The historic art deco meatpacking building currently at 437 West 13th Street was in the Gansevoort Market Historic District GVSHP proposed to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in 2001, and the LPC actually included the building in the district they were considering in 2003 until the owner lobbied heavily to have it taken out (had it remained in, the current building could not be demolished). GVSHP was able to get the building included in the Gansevoort Market State and National Register Historic District in 2007, which offers financial incentives and tax breaks for preservation of historic buildings, but this owner/developer has decided to forgo such benefits and instead demolish the building.
Thank you to everyone who attended the hearings wrote letters in opposition to the requested variances, including City Councilmember Tony Avella. While the outcome may not have been everything we hoped for, it was only because of this hard work and support that the development was cut as significantly as it was.