With Polshek Tower Dead, Chelsea Seminary Turns to Affordable Housing

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The proposed — and abandoned — tower. Photo: Image: Polshek Partnersip Architects via GTS.edu

The pooh-bahs of nouveau Chelsea and the guardians of old Chelsea might want to start working together. The General Theological Seminary, situated in an elegant Gothic quad on West 20th Street, has been trying since 2005 to get approval to build a James Polshek–designed residential tower at the Ninth Avenue edge of its property. (With everyone else making money off the neighborhood's real-estate boom, the aspiring Episcopalians saw an easy way to finance a desperately needed renovation of its buildings.) But after being shot down by old-timers on the local community board in February, the seminary last night announced it was giving up its residential-tower dreams. Now it's proposing a much smaller, seven-story (but still Polshek-designed) structure along Ninth, with a library downstairs and co-ops upstairs. (The co-ops will help pay for at least some renovations.) And there will also be one more part of the new plan, according to seminary executive vice-president Maureen Burnley: During negotiations with the community board, she said, the seminary offered some of its land to the New York City Housing Authority for affordable-housing units. Score one for the old guard. —Alec Appelbaum