Controversial Meatpacking District Tower Approved by City Board

13th st rendering Controversial Meatpacking District Tower Approved by City BoardThe city’s Board of Standards and Appeals approved on Tuesday zoning variances that would allow a 175-foot tower to be built at 437 West 13th Street in the Meatpacking District.

The 10-story, mixed-use tower, rebranded 860 Washington Street, will be allowed to be about 24 percent taller than the neighborhood’s current zoning allows, after developer Romanoff Equities in February cited the High Line, which runs through the property, as a hardship that limited development. It also cited lead contamination and poor soil on the property, currently Art Deco meat market buildings.

“The board was convinced by the applicant’s claim of uniqueness on the property,” said Jeff Mulligan, executive director of the BSA. “The High Line’s location on the zoning lot restricts the development … That, in combination with the contaminated soil, warranted a variance.”

The developer initially proposed a 215-foot tower, 55 percent higher than current zoning, in December 2008, according to Mr. Mulligan, but scaled back efforts after opposition from preservationists. In January, Community Board 2 gave an advisory against the 215-foot proposal, after the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation fought vigorously against it.

“The board questioned the original proposal and questioned the need for a building of that size,” said Mr. Mulligan.

However, the board approved the overall project in a 32-2 vote and doubled in size the ground retail space. The developer had requested a tripling in ground retail space, while GVSHP supported no increase.

“Our intention from the start was to design a building which complemented the High Line,” said Daryll Romanoff, principal at Romanoff Equities. “We are delighted that the BSA approved all five of our variances, which will allow for 23 percent more FAR [density] than the current zoning and more than double the amount of retail space on the ground floors.”

The building will total 116,000 square feet, with the retail tenants on the bottom two floors, with spaces from 11,500 to 13,200 square feet and ceiling heights of 17 to 25 feet. The top eight floors will be office space, with approximately 11,000 square feet per floor.

“With this important approval from the BSA today, we can now begin the process of seeking an anchor tenant which we are confident we will get, given how attractive this building is as well as the surrounding neighborhood,” Mr. Romanoff said.

The Meatpacking District already includes fashion store Diane Von Furstenberg Studios, Barnes & Noble and television networks.

“As the neighbors to the north of 860 Washington Street, we are delighted that the City of New York has granted the necessary variances for this project to move ahead,” said Diane Von Furstenberg in a statement. “As an old family of the Meat Packing District, the Romanoffs have committed to preserve the neighborhood as a destination for high-end fashion and commerce.”