High Line’s highest end faces trouble

Plans to turn the northern MTA-owned section of the High Line into parkland may get derailed.

The High Line, the former elevated rail line that ran though the backs of warehouses from the Meatpacking District through West Chelsea, is being readied for a transformation into a second-story level promenade and park along the old railbed. But last month, the city’s transit authority revealed that its planned sale of the Hudson Yards marshaling and maintenance area could also leave the northern portion of the High Line, from 30th to 34th streets along 10th Avenue, vulnerable to demolition, rather than parkland redevelopment.

No buyer has yet emerged, but the agency reserves the right to sell off its real estate holdings as it sees fit, and the possibility that four blocks of projected park would be clipped makes developers nervous.

An MTA sale to a demolition-minded buyer would not only reduce the final size of the High Line, but could cut into developer profits if their planned projects aren’t connected to the expected public space.

Construction along the future High Line has been frenzied, and many developers use the pending park as their primary selling point.

While optimism dominates talk and plans along the old trackbed, developers are wary of the MTA’s plans to sell the northern parcel.

“I’m very sorry if the park cannot extend the whole way, but if it cannot, it will make the remaining portion more unique,” said Andre Balazs, who is developing the Standard New York hotel at 844 Washington Street and a private club on 10th Avenue and 14th Street. “I think the public will be shortchanged if it happens, and I think it would be a shame.”

Balazs’ projects are on the far south end of the future park, so they would not be directly impacted by an abbreviated version of the park. A residential development planned by the Related Companies, however, at 30th Street and 10th Avenue, would rise next to the affected segment.

David Wine, vice chairman of the Related Companies, said Related is taking a wait-and-see approach with regards to the MTA’s plans.

“The timing of the MTA’s plans for the north end of the High Line is of interest to us because we don’t want to do something that doesn’t make sense in terms of what they do,” said Wine, adding that Related expects the building’s units to primarily be rentals.

Regardless of what transpires above 30th Street, the overall feeling among industry professionals is that the buildings under construction in the High Line corridor will fare well.

“It’s such a unique area; it’s not going to be the next Soho or the next anywhere else,” said broker Eric Anton, a senior vice president at Eastern Consolidated who has worked on several deals in the area. “Nowhere else in the city are you going to have this accumulation of art and a unique park. The views are going to be amazing.”

Wine said the excitement surrounding High Line developments is part of a larger trend of buyers looking along the entire far West Side, and that apartment seekers are now willing to consider buildings all the way from Battery Park City to the Upper West Side. He called the interest generated by another Related tower along the High Line, the Caledonia at 450 West 17th Street, “incredible” and said the building was 75 percent sold as of mid-December.

“The product and location have captivated people,” he said. The Caledonia, which will have 200 condo units and 250 rental apartments, is a joint venture between Related and Taconic Investment Partners. It will feature a ground-floor, 3,500-square-foot Equinox health club, a chain owned by Related.

According to Anton, it’s luxury buildings like the Caledonia that will do best near the High Line.

“I’m not so bullish about the smaller buildings that don’t have views, but I think the larger buildings that can provide amenities and luxury touches will do well,” he said. “If people are going to pay a high price they want amenities.”

Buyers will have many choices. While a number of projects are still in the planning stages, hundreds of condo units are currently under construction in the area, most of them slated for large, full-service buildings (see below).

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Aside from the Caledonia, these include an 11-story condo at 520 West 19th Street; a 20-story condo tower at 535-541 West 19th Street; the 11-story High Line 519 on West 23rd Street; a tower planned on 10th and 23rd by Leviev Boymelgreen; and the 14-story Vesta 24 at 231-233 10th Avenue.

Anton of Eastern Consolidated said that pricing for residential units along the High Line has been more or less holding steady, while “retail pricing is very good. And hotel pricing is great: The sky’s the limit with that.”

In general, he said, buildings can’t come up quickly enough: “There’s just tons of demand.”

High Line developments, north to south

30th Street and 10th Avenue
Site of future residential tower developed by the Related Companies.

Chelsea Arts Tower
545 West 25th Street
20-story commercial condo being developed by Jack Guttman and Young Woo & Associates.

Vesta 24
231-233 10th Avenue
14-story condo being developed by the Vesta Group.

High Line 519
519 West 23rd Street
11-story condo developed by Sleepy Hudson LLC.

10th Avenue and 23rd Street
Residential tower developed by Leviev Boymelgreen.

General Theological Seminary Tower
Ninth Avenue from 20th to 21st streets
17-story tower with residential topping seminary developed by the Brodsky Organization.

535-541 West 19th Street
20-story condo tower being developed by Alf Naman Real Estate Advisors and Cape Advisors.

IAC/InterActiveCorp headquarters
540 West 19th Street
10-story tower being developed by the Georgetown Company.

520 West 19th Street
11-story condo being developed by Bishopscourt Realty.

The Caledonia
450 West 17th Street
26-story rental/condo being developed by the Related Companies and Taconic Investment Partners.

14th Street and 10th Avenue
10-story addition to warehouse will become a private club developed by Andre Balazs.

The Standard New York
844 Washington Street
330-room hotel being developed by Andre Balazs.

Southern entrance to the High Line
820 Washington Street
Planned Whitney Museum of American Art satellite.