Residential building OK’ed on narrow Chelsea lot

Opponents asked that owner re-use existing four-story building. Jack Ancona proposed to demolish a four-story, 3,375-square-foot building at 132 West 26th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, replacing it with a twelve-story, 135-foot retail and residential project. Because the lot retained its manufacturing zoning, the proposal required a use variance.

Ancona claimed that his site’s narrow 18-foot, 9-inch width made it unique and rendered manufacturing uses impractical. Ancona provided documents showing only six other lots less than 20 feet in width within the immediate eight-block radius. Unlike his lot, the six lots were adjacent to one another and could, Ancona argued, be grouped into one large development lot. Ancona also claimed that 40 percent of the surrounding buildings contained residential use, largely stemming from illegal conversions in the 1980s and the City’s residential rezoning of large portions of West 24th and West 28th Streets between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.

BSA found the narrowness of Ancona’s lot was unique, but requested that Ancona study the possibility of providing retail on the ground floor only, rather than the proposed two-story retail plan. Opponents argued that the existing four-story building could be retrofitted to accommodate a manufacturing use and asked BSA to require that the 2005 financial information submitted with Ancona’s original application be updated to reflect 2006 prices. In February 2006, the opponents, in a final submission, claimed that Ancona had provided false comparables and had understated the project’s income calculations. Ancona argued that viable retail space needed a second story since the bulk of the narrow first floor would be used for entrances and diminished the retailer’s presence on the street.

BSA rejected the opposition’s contentions, noting that Ancona priced the upper units at over $1,000 per square foot. BSA also noted that updating of financial data was not required, since Ancona had not argued that the existing building’s condition created a hardship. BSA accepted Ancona’s need for two-stories of retail and granted a variance for a 135-foot tall building with 12,886 sq.ft. of residential space and 3,332 sq.ft. of retail space on the ground floor and second story.

BSA: 132 West 26th Street (77-05-BZ) (February 28, 2006) (Greenberg Traurig, LLP for Ancona). CITYADMIN

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