Private school to use West Chelsea warehouse

Developer plans to convert West Chelsea warehouse to a pre-K though 12 private school. On October 19, 2011, the City Planning Commission approved Avenues World Holdings LLC’s proposal to convert a ten-story warehouse into a 1,635- seat private K-12 school, known as Avenues: The World School, in West Chelsea. The Cass Gilbert-designed building occupies the western side of Tenth Avenue between West 25th and West 26th Streets, and is within Avthe boundaries of the Special West Chelsea District and the West Chelsea Historic District. The warehouse is across the street from the Elliot- Chelsea Houses and the High Line runs along its western facade.

Avenues World Holdings’ proposal includes adding a rooftop gym and renovating the recessed loading bay docks lining the building’s ground floor along Tenth Avenue. Avenues World Holdings would open the loading bays by removing overhead security doors to create two colonnades and increase circulation space for students. To accommodate the gym’s 25-foot high ceiling, Avenues World Holdings would need to increase the building’s height to 144 feet. 

Avenues World Holdings sought a special permit to modify the Special West Chelsea District’s use restrictions and 125-foot height limit. Although a school use would be permitted under the site’s C6-3 zoning district regulations, the Special West Chelsea District’s regulations require that at least 40 feet of the building’s Tenth Avenue ground floor frontage be used as a commercial use, museum, or art gallery. Avenues World Holdings obtained Landmarks’ approval for the project in February 2011, and a certificate of appropriateness for the renovations was issued in May 2011.

Manhattan Community Board 4 and Borough President Scott M. Stringer approved the proposal, but cited concerns about the school’s traffic impact and its integration with the surrounding community.

At the City Planning Commission’s public hearing in September, CB 4 District Manager Robert Benfatto, stated that Avenues World Holdings agreed to perform a traffic study and to offer ground floor space for community uses. Chair Amanda Burden asked Raymond C. Bordwell, chief facilities officer of Avenues: The World School, about the visual impact of the school’s ground floor in the evenings and on weekends. Bordwell believed that the ground prohibfloor space used by the community and the proposed lighting along the glass lobby would create an active streetscape that would connect to the street visually. No one testified in opposition to the proposal.

The Commission unanimously approved the proposal, noting that Avenues World Holdings had committed to a variety of measures to ensure an active ground floor. The school would provide space for at least 20 community meetings or events in its first year, and at least 50 events in the following years. The school would also hold performances and exhibitions in its theater, cafe, and lobby gallery space on evenings and weekends, and provide fulltime video surveillance and lighting in the colonnade area.

CPC: 259 Tenth Avenue (C 110334 ZSM – spec. perm.) (Oct. 19, 2011) (Architect: Perkins Eastman).

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