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Permission Slip Needed for New High Line Private School

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Educational entrepreneur and former Esquire owner Christopher Whittle wanted to plant a for-profit private school on the far reaches of West 57th Street, but the deal soured, and instead that piece of land will become something quite different. Now Whittle and his partner, former Yale president Benno Schmidt, have their sites set on 259 Tenth Avenue, a 10-story manufacturing building designed by Cass Gilbert and built in 1928. The pair plan on giving the building, which is wedged between Tenth Avenue and the High Line, a top-notch restoration (rendered above), but they need city officials to bend the rules to allow them to do it.

The school, which would be called Avenues: the World School, wants to build a rooftop addition to house a gym and basketball court. That, along with the bulkhead, would bring the building's height up to 159 feet, which is 34 feet taller than zoning allows. A waiver is required, and since the building is in the West Chelsea Historic District, the Landmarks Preservation Commission discussed the matter today, as well as the other proposed changes, like new windows.

The LPC didn't end up deciding on whether to grant the waiver and allow the changes just yet, but commissioners were impressed with the restoration plan, drawn up by Perkins Eastman. However, they were concerned about the size and visibility of the addition. One commissioner suggested that the school consider using Chelsea Piers for gym space, but with 1,600 pre-K through 12th grade students, a facility of the school's own is clearly the goal. LPC has to sign off on the waiver before City Planning gets a crack, so stay tuned. Here's the building as it looks now. High Line High, anyone?

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