Variance for office tower next to High Line granted


BSA grants Romanoff Equities’ variance application for a ten-story glass tower next to the High Line. See story on page 8. Image: Courtesy of James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA).

Property owner claimed that a complying development was difficult because the High Line crossed the lot. Romanoff Equities applied to BSA for a variance to construct a twelve-story, 215-foot tall office building at 437 West 13th Street, a site occupied by a portion of the High Line. The original design included cantilevering a portion of the building ten feet over the High Line and using the first three floors for retail space.

Residents and preservation groups opposed the proposal, while others supported certain aspects of the application. Manhattan Community Board 2 approved the proposal but recommended that Romanoff reduce the total floor area. The City Planning Commission submitted a letter stating that it supported the height and setback waivers, but objected to the original proposal’s total floor area, the extension of retail uses above the second floor, and cantilevering any portion of the building over the High Line.

During the hearing process, Romanoff modified the proposal to a ten-story building with a two-foot cantilever that would not extend over the High Line, and agreed to use only the first two floors for retail. Romanoff still needed a variance because the project included a noncomplying retail use and exceeded the M1-5 district’s permitted floor area and minimum setback and rear yard requirements.

Romanoff claimed that it could not build a complying development because the High Line diagonally crossed the western portion of its site. Romanoff stated that the Highline obstructed approximately 27 percent of the property, creating an irregularly-shaped lot. It also cited the additional construction costs related to developing a taller and narrow building, noting that the site’s poor soil conditions would require more costly drilled piling. Romanoff claimed that the project would be similar in scale to eight other nearby buildings, including the eighteen-story Standard Hotel located south of the project site.

BSA granted the variance for the reduced proposal, finding that Romanoff could not develop a complying building that would provide a reasonable economic return. Noting the site’s uniqueness, BSA pointed out that nearby property owners with smaller portions of their lots obstructed by the High Line had built out over the High Line.

BSA: 437-447 West 13th Street (314-08- BZ) (Nov. 24, 2009) (Gary Tarnoff, Kramer Levin, for Romanoff Equities). CITYADMIN


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