New buildings for seminary approved

Seminary will demolish 1960s Sherrill Hall to make way for 7-story bldg. On September 18, 2007, Landmarks approved the General Theological Seminary’s plan to construct a seven-story mixed-use building and a five-story administrative building on its campus within the Chelsea Historic District.

The Seminary’s 17-building walled-in campus, located between Ninth and Tenth Avenues from West 20th to West 21st Streets, consists mostly of 19th century Gothic-style buildings. Under the plan, the Seminary will demolish Sherrill Hall, a deteriorating four-story building dating back to 1961 and located along Ninth Avenue, to make room for a seven-story mixed-use building designed by Polshek Partnership. The new building will include a library, housing for students and faculty, and residential rental units. The Seminary estimates that the residential rental units will generate approximately $30 million in much needed revenue, which will go towards covering the costs of preserving its historic campus. The plan also includes a much less controversial five-story administrative building, designed by Beyer Blinder Belle, to be located along the West 20th Street border of its campus.

According to the Seminary, a major renovation was necessary as maintenance and preservation costs associated with these buildings continued to increase and drain the Seminary’s endowment. Since 1999, the Seminary has invested over $40 million into the preservation of its historic buildings and garden-like campus.

The Seminary originally proposed a fifteen-story mixed-use glass tower, but changed the design to assuage concerns from Chelsea residents, who asked that the project not exceed the area’s 7.5-story height limit. At its first hearing before Landmarks in July 2007, despite a reduction in height, preservationists remained opposed to the Seminary’s design, calling its glass facade unsympathetic to the Gothic-style campus. Before the September vote, the Seminary incorporated more brownstone cladding onto the building, to better harmonize with its historic surroundings.

Landmarks voted unanimously to approve the proposal, praising the Seminary’s designs and responsive sensitivity to the community’s concerns.

LPC: Hearing on 175 Ninth Avenue (COFA # 07-4488) (Sept. 18, 2007).

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