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Brick Chelsea Building May Get Selldorf-Designed Glass Topper

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Art may still live on at one of the old Dia Art Foundation buildings at 548 West 22nd Street near the High Line. The handsome building, once destined for a conversion to luxury rentals after the Center for the Arts vacated in 2004, now serves as event space. But not for long. On Monday night, architects showed community members a glimpse of what is likely to become of the four-story brick building. Early renderings (far left, looking south on Eleventh Avenue; click for big!) show a 19-story, 26-unit structure made mostly of glass. However, the existing facade, including its square protrusion, would remain as the new building's base.

Property Markets Group and Harch Group bought the building last year for $40 million and tapped noted architect Annabelle Selldorf for the project. Plans submitted in January revealed a vision that maintained some art on the first floor, turned the second into a parking garage, used the third floor for amenities, and built residences from the fourth floor up. "Trying to keep it as simple and clean as possible, the desire to be the most elegant contrast to the existing building and offer something to the skyline was our intention," said Sara Lopergolo of Selldorf Architects.

This addition, though, can't happen without asking for some variances. This includes ignoring the "split-zoning" that earmarks part of the building for manufacturing, bumping a partial 135-foot height limit to 250 feet, not fully complying with the old Amanda Burden penthouse setback rule (for structural reasons), and increasing the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) with air rights purchased from the High Line.

The board had almost no issues with the site, with Community Board 4's Land Use Committee co-chair Lee Compton calling it "very handsome."

What did irk attendees was the use of parking on the second floor. "This is the third project in about two months that wants more parking in this area," said committee co-chair Betty Mackintosh. Part of the rationale behind the parking spaces, in which seven spaces are allowed but permission for an additional eight are requested, is the proximity to the West Side Highway. While discussion lingered on this, confusion spread when when a representative with the group said that space for parking is not counted as FAR. Additionally, questions about affordable housing could crop up later, because building reps didn't provide specifics regarding where off-site inclusionary housing would be.

· All 548 West 22nd Street coverage [Curbed]