It looks like the end is near for 437 West 13th Street, the historic Art Deco meatpacking building on the corner of Washington Street that is slated to be replaced by a 175-ft tall glass tower. The owners just filed an application with the Department of Buildings to demolish the building.
This is sad in more ways than one. The building has long played a role in the functioning of the Meatpacking District, having been built in 1936 for use by the NY Dressed Poultry Market and later home to Atlas Meats. Today, a handful of one-and-two story Art Deco buildings survive from this era and are sprinkled throughout the former meat market. They collectively make up a significant part of the fabric of the neighborhood and help define its low-rise character.
With that in mind, GVSHP fought long and hard to save 437 West 13th Street. Its impending demolition would not be possible if the building had been included with the boundaries of the NYC Gansevoort Market Historic District, as GVSHP had proposed over a decade ago when we first began advocating for the district. Much to our dismay, after heavy lobbying by the owners the City carved the building out of the boundaries when the district was finally designated in 2003. This meant that the building could be demolished and that whatever replaced it would not be subject to the review of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (we were able to get the building included in the State and National Register Gansevoort Market Historic Districts in 2007; however, this does not prevent demolition, it only provides financial incentives for preservation — apparently not enough for this owner — and requires State or Federal actions to be reviewed for their impact upon the historic significance of the site).
Two years ago, the owners came forward with a plan to demolish the structure and construct a 250-ft tall glass tower with two stories of big box retail in its place. Most egregious about the proposal was the size; the owners requested for a variance to build 66% larger than would be allowed under the zoning. To justify their request they claimed that the High Line, which bisects the property, created a hardship. GVSHP fought hard against the proposal, leading to significant reductions in the height, bulk and amount of planned big box retail space.
As we bid good-bye to a small but important historic treasure, we invite you to become involved in our efforts to preserve the history of the Meatpacking District. You can read more about our work in the neighborhood by visiting our Preservation page, take a walking tour of the area, or check our Landmarks Applications Webpage to find out when plans are filed to alter, demolish or construct new buildings in the historic district. Also make sure to check out our Events page for upcoming programs in the neighborhood.