Mysterious High Line Building is Losing Its Head


A property butting up against the High Line should be a gold mine, and while certain sites near the park in the sky are yielding pricey nuggets, others have proven to be a wad of woe.

Count the shell of a building at 508 West 20th Street among the latter. From atop the stairway where Phase I of the High Line now ends, High Liners come face-to-face with four floors of steel beams and open-ended concrete, but not for long. The DOB has issued a demolition permit to remove the top two floors and seal the remaining structure, and work might just begin today.

The deconstruction will remove the eyesore from the High Line’s cluttered western view that includes archigeek favorites likeAnnabelle SelldorfShigeru Ban and Jean Nouvel (not to mention the slightly older IAC building from the Gehry gang). As for the future of this problematic plot, it’s a bit uncertain.

The mystery shell has a convoluted history, including a batch ofviolations and stop work orders covering non-conforming and unsafe construction, but the economic downturn more than anything brought things to a halt.

Then the 3,834-square-foot site was listed for sale in an online flyer(warning: PDF) that showed a rendering of all four floors covered in glass, and proclaiming that “existing air rights may be transferred anywhere within the Special West Chelsea zoning District.” The site has its many pluses, including front row seats to the High Line Renegade Cabaret across the way, but in these troubled times it’s anybody’s guess how this one will turn out.

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