The cash flow problems at Chelsea's historic General Theological Seminary, the two rows of landmark buildings plus a park bounded by 20th and 21st streets and Ninth and Tenth avenues, are not news. It was those very financial difficulties that led the seminary to approve luxury housing on its land and then to open up its hotel/conference center. But those moves weren't enough to put the seminary back in the black, so the institution went looking for another answer to its financial prayers. It decided to sell off more buildings in what it called "The Plan to Choose Life." And according to Chelsea Now, the G.T.S. will be hooked up the ventilator any day now, as soon as the Attorney General's approval allows the seminary to close on the sale of its buildings to developer the Brodsky Organization. With the transaction looming and neighborhood fears growing, Brodsky bigwigs opened up about some of their plans, which include preservation and new construction.
Brodsky exec Dean Amro tells Chelsea Now the organization has no major transformations planned for the landmarked historic buildings it has purchased. At 2, 3, 4 Chelsea Square (currently faculty housing), facade restoration is in the cards. The West Building will get that and a new paint job, and the developer plans to ask the Landmarks Preservation Commission to take down an ugly fire escape at 422 West 20th Street. It all sounds fairly tame, and perhaps the buildings' apartments will be rentals, because G.T.S. is not eager to see them leave the fold: the seminary plans to keep a buy-back option in all the contracts and reacquire the buildings when money is no longer a problem.
What might worry community members more is the Brodsky Organization's plan for a new residential development on G.T.S. grounds, replacing the tennis courts right next to the West Building. Amro tells Chelsea Now the building has no design yet but would "be consistent with the brick, brownstone and glass structure" of Chelsea Enclave and would need no zoning variances. If that's not okay with the neighbors, well, at least the West Building's Center for Peace and Reconciliation is just a few short steps away.
The site of the planned new construction: