Chelsea Market expansion plan moves ahead

The expansion proposal for the Chelsea Market was officially filed today with the Department of City Planning, a release from landlord Jamestown Properties said. This inaugurates a seven-month-long review and approval period for the plan, which would add 240,000 square feet of office space and a 90,000-square-foot hotel to the existing structure at 75 Ninth Avenue, between 15th and 16th streets.

In order to move forward, Jamestown needs the block where the Chelsea Market stands to be redesignated as part of the Special West Chelsea Zoning District. As part of that special district, the block could receive variances to accommodate the proposed structure’s height and increased floor area ratio. Jamestown scaled back its plans for the building in December after significant community opposition to the office tower.

Jamestown contends, in the release, that the current plan, which leaves the ground-floor retail tenants and includes a $19 million donation to the city’s High Line Improvement Fund, will create 600 construction jobs.

The expansion is expected to be a political test for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in her bid for the mayor’s office. She represents the district, which has strongly opposed the expansion, but has courted the real estate community, according to some, and may have to support the zoning changes that would enable the expansion for political reasons, the logic goes.

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Critics of the expansion say there is no need at the popular Chelsea Market for additional space.

“We expect that there will be overwhelming opposition to the proposal,” Andrew Berman, executive director for the Greenwich Village Preservation Society, a non-profit group, told The Real Deal. “There is absolutely no claim that this is needed… This is about greed, not need.”

The Midtown South office leasing market, of which the Chelsea submarket is a part, was is the tightest in the country according to first quarter 2012 numbers, as The Real Deal has previously reported.

But the review process for the project has only begun — the expansion still needs input from Community Board 4, the borough president, and the City Planning Commission and the New York City Council. — Guelda Voien