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This Glassy Tower Could Have Risen by the High Line

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Imagine if Frank Gehry's IAC Building weren't the only glassy structure to grace the intersection of Eleventh Avenue and 18th Street. Right now, it dominates that area, but Curbed dug up a rendering that's anywhere from seven to 10 years old (depending on who you ask, but we'll get to that) that shows a tower just south on Eleventh Avenue, between 18th and 17th streets, that rises to more than double the 10-story IAC's height. There's also a little mini-tower behind it, towards 10th Avenue, which looks like an appendage. A project Ulises Liceaga worked on when he was a member of the design team at Robert A.M. Stern Architects, the rendering above appeared as an example of Liceaga's past work on the website for his own firm, Fractal Construction, which he founded in 2006. On the same site now, which faces the High Line at its back (prime real estate these days!), is a parking lot and a Manhattan Mini-Storage branch. So what happened to this project?

Liceaga's firm replied that he had no information and that the rendering was "an [sic] schematic exercise that was done for a developer about 7 years ago." Robert A.M. Stern Architects declined to comment on the record about what happened to that building. Meanwhile, public records show that since 2004 the deed for that lot, which also includes 501-515 West 17th Street, has been in the name of Edison Mini-Storage Corporation and HLP Properties LLC (which paid $40.6 million for it, BTW), both of which trace back to Edison Properties. It's a Newark, N.J.-based landlord and developer that owns and operates a range of commercial and residential space, including Lower East Side luxury condo The Ludlow. Edison also runs Edison ParkFast and all the Manhattan Mini-Storage locations, so it appears that the tower picture above never came to fruition, and the only thing abutting the High Line now is... a parking lot and a building full of storage units. Makes sense given the ownership, but is it the best use of space in an area that's become a darling of residential real estate?

The rendering of the building?which is labeled "The Highline Project," so the developer and architect must have had a hint of what was ahead?has since been removed from Liceaga's firm's website. The parking lot has been designated a "Brown Site," which means that it would take a lot of work to ready it for further development even if Edison still had plans in the pipeline. About 100 years ago, that block was home to some major gas works, and also railroad links to the West Side piers.

An Observer article from 2005 reveals that the community board chair had also seen the plans pictured above, "designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, for two towers, one 290 feet high and the other 390 feet, for a parcel to the west of the High Line between 17th and 18th streets..." That's our baby! The piece also names Edison's owner, Jerome (Jerry) Gottesman, as the operator of the site (the patriarch of the Gottesman family, actually, which runs Edison), and explains that he did an about-face?first he advocated for the High Line to be torn down, and then he allegedly decided, after its renovation was a certainty, to develop near it. But Edison Properties hasn't returned our calls to update us on what happened to that glassy tower, and if they have any future proposals for this rather unsightly block, which has so much potential.
· High Line coverage [Curbed]

501 West 17th Street

501 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011