Low Price on High Line: Whitney Gobbles Up Rare Meatpacking Site [Updated]
Matt Chaban June 3, 2011, 5 p.m.
The Whitney Museum broke ground last week. Buried by all the fanfare was the fact that the august institution still has a good deal of money to raise before it finishes its Renzo Piano-designed museum in 2015, about $200 million, a little under one-third the cost of the new building. Any deals it can dig up are a big help in reaching that goal, and so the city has just done the Whitney a big favor on the sale of its new site.
The final price for the two plots on which Mr. Piano’s crustacean-looking building will rise, 820 Washington Street and 93 Gansevoort Street, was $19.19 million, according to city records. That will come out to a little under $100 per square foot for the 195,000-square-foot building—well below the $200 to $300 a foot the neighborhood averages for building sales. Given the prime location next to the High Line, the Hudson and down the block from the Standard, James Nolen, a partner at Massey Knakal, believes the site could have fetched closer to $400 per square foot on the open market.
“The big thing about this site is there was a deed restriction for agricultural or meatpacking use, and it was city-owned, so it really couldn’t be bid on by the fair market,” Mr. Nolen said. “Obviously, whatever deal they got, the city felt it was good for the neighborhood and worth doing.” Not to suggest that he does not like the deal himself. “It’s a spectacular site, and this is very exciting for the area,” Mr. Nolen added.
The Whitney and the city’s Economic Development Corporation have not yet responded to requests for comment.
UPDATE: “Being that it’s a cultural institution and we hold the development rights and there’s a deed restriction for cultural uses, that is why the property is valued the way it is,” an EDC spokesperson tells The Observer. The price was also slightly higher than the originally agreed upon $18 million because the Whitney exercised an option to buy a second piece of land owned by the city.
And just to clarify, we were pointing out the Whitney got a good deal, which is not to say that it is not deserving of one. The Observer agrees the last thing the Meatpacking District needs is another boutique or boutique hotel. The Whitney gift shop not withstanding.