Evolution of West Chelsea
What neighborhood is the birthplace of the Oreo cookie? What neighborhood is the first land the Titanic survivors set foot on? What neighborhood has the most art galleries? What neighborhood has a 1.5 mile eco-system thirty feet in the air? Filled with history and a unique culture all its own, Chelsea has a little something for everyone. From luxury new-developments to world-class art galleries, Chelsea has become one of Manhattan’s most sought-after neighborhoods for locals and tourists alike. West Chelsea in particular has been pivotal in the neighborhood’s transformation.
Like most of downtown Manhattan's West Side, West Chelsea was historically heavily involved in the manufacturing and shipping industries. For a short period of time in the early 1800's the more central parts of Chelsea saw a major influx of art, music, and theater, turning the once quiet neighborhood into a happening entertainment scene. However, the laying of the Hudson River Railroad in 1847 brought freight trains, lumber yards, warehouses, manufacturers, and an immigrant labor force. In response, theaters, fine-art galleries and the wealthy moved Uptown. With the possibility of becoming New York’s art district (seemingly) in the past, Chelsea continued further into manufacturing and commercialization.
For most of the twentieth century, Chelsea was a dilapidated industrial graveyard — while there were historic brownstones and some residential development projects like London Terrace and Chelsea Corners, it wasn’t until the 80’s that the art scene returned to Chelsea, and once again put it on the map as a trendy neighborhood — open lofts and warehouses with cheap rents made for perfect studio and gallery spaces. With an edgy and cool crowd returning, developers interest in the now “up and coming" neighborhood began grow.
However, despite the successful art galleries in the area, West Chelsea remained an eyesore to many through the 90s and early 2000s. The neglected High Line train tracks was the topic of development debate for over a decade, and Mayor Guiliani eventually signed a demolition order in 1999. The foundation Friends of the High Line suggested the idea of a public park (founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond saw untapped potential in the wild plants that grew over the abandoned tracks) and the demolition was postponed. Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council were strong supporters of turning the High Line into a public park, and The West Chelsea Special District received certification from the Department of City Planning at the end of 2004. With the success of this new public park highly anticipated, developers began purchasing properties around the High Line — in just two years, 20 properties were purchased with 13 slated to be new condominiums.
In the years since, West Chelsea has become one of the most appreciated neighborhoods in Manhattan — famous architects like Frank Gehry and Bjarke Ingel have built architecturally stunning apartment buildings that have immortalized West Chelsea as a symbol of modern New York luxury. Here are some of our favorite new developments in the area today:
520 West 28th Street is the only residential building Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid designed in New York, and is one of the last projects she worked on before her passing in 2016. Affectionately named the Zaha Hadid, the curved shape and geometric designs on the facade of the building are signatures of the architect. Construction of the 11-story, 39-unit condo was completed in July of 2017. Complete with all the top-amenities, 520 West 28th Street also features a sculpture deck that plans to rotate art curated by the Friends of the High Line Foundation.
Soori High Line, located at 522 West 29th Street, marked the American debut of Soo K. Chan, one of Asia's most regarded architects. Modeled to feel like a high-end resort, Soori High Line features the same amenities you might find at a 5-star hotel, including a lifestyle concierge, state-of-the-art gym, a spa, and yoga and pilates studios. The 11-story condo has 31 units, and was completed in 2017.
515 West 29th Street is another design by Soo K. Chan, and is equally as luxurious as Soori High Line. The glass fin facade of "Five One Five" is a signature of the SCDA's principal architect. With just 15 units split across the 11 floors, Five One Five offers a boutique living experience with amenities that include a roof deck, a gym, private storage, and amazing views of the High Line. Construction was completed last year.
Another High Line-hugging new development is 500 West 25th Street. Built on the lot of an old auto-body shop, 500W25 consists of 7 floor-through apartments and a duplexed penthouse, all with outdoor space, and is designed by architect-developer GDSNY. The condo is set to finish construction this year, and sales for the properties have already launched.
The Jardim at 527 West 27th Street is the first New York City residential condominium by Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld. The Jardim is actually comprised of two towers, one located on 27th Street and the other on 28th Street, and both towers will be connected by a lush garden and courtyard for residents. There are 36 units in the Jardim, and the 11-story brick and glass complex will likely be completed by the end of this year.