The Real Deal New York

Block near final High Line section offers grit, real estate gold

Rezoning could lead to building stampede west of 11th Avenue

September 25, 2014 05:10PM
By Rich Bockmann

Block 675 in West Chelsea

Block 675 in West Chelsea

With the third and final section of the High Line now open, the elevated park that brought the Midas touch to far West Side real estate now heads for the first time across 11th Avenue. There, the views include the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, the still-uncapped section of the rail yards and a real, authentic New York City gas station.

Indeed, as the park curves westward through a canyon of existing and rising towers on either side of 30th Street, it opens to a wide vista that includes city Block 675, a collection of High Line-facing industrial properties still untouched by the area’s feverish development. That, however, could change.

Part of the reason the western-most block between 30th and 29th streets looks like something from a forgotten New York can be explained by zoning. When the city created the Special West Chelsea District in 2005, it created a demarcation line along 11th Avenue.

East of the roadway, new zoning paved the way for buildings such as Douglaston Development’s 40-story OHM tower at the corner of 11th Avenue and 30th Street. Next door, Related is working to put up a 28-story rental tower on the last vacant lot on the block that is bookended by its 33-story Abington House on 10th Avenue.

The area west of 11th Avenue, however, was left with a mix of different manufacturing zonings, leaving a handful of property owners with gritty industrial properties.

Should those property owners, spurred by the extended High Line, seek to rezone their properties, it could turn the block’s grit to gold.

Here’s what’s on the block right now, along with the owners and the potential buildable space.

301-309 11th Avenue and 603-613 West 29th Street

The first thing High Line strollers see when they pass 11th Avenue is the Mobil gas station at the corner of 30th Street. But this unassuming property is part of an assemblage that fronts block-through on the avenue and stretches more than 500 feet along 29th Street.

The properties are currently under a zoning that severely limits their bulk, but should the city upzone the block to allow for the same kind of density enjoyed on the east side of 11th, the combined lots could offer more than 600,000 square feet of buildable space.

The assemblage is either owned or managed by Eight Points Asset Management, a company that oversees real estate investments for institutions and high net-worth families. Eight Points did not return calls for comment.

The gas station, which has been a tenant since 1971, has a lease running through September 2016 with no option to extend.

260 12th Avenue

On the opposite end of the block fronting the West Side Highway, the investment and development firm Georgetown Company owns a property for which current zoning allows a 1.13-million square foot commercial building.

The company at one time had plans to erect a hotel on the site, but back in 2010 Georgetown signed an agreement with the Port Authority granting the agency an easement (for the sum of $96.6 million) in order to construct a trans-Hudson rail tunnel. Plans for the tunnel were scrapped soon after the deal was inked.

The easement, which applies to another small Georgetown property on the block, runs through 2020. The company did not return a call for comment.

606 West 30th Street

The city Department of Sanitation has a month-to-month lease at this one-story garage owned by the son of late real estate investor Anita Butensky Katzman, who died in 2009. DSNY had been considering relocation to a facility on West 25th Street.

If upzoned, the property could accommodate approximately 148,000 square feet of development.

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