The two M1-5 districts established in the 2005 “Special West Chelsea District” Zoning Resolution are shown on the map below. You can read the entire text of Article IX, Chapter 8 here.These two areas – West Chelsea Gallery District North and South – are the last stand for galleries, sort of the Alamo for the Arts.

Among the stated General Purposes is 98-00 (c) “to encourage and support the growth of arts-related uses in West Chelsea” and the M1-5 Districts are further defined: “The existing M1-5 manufacturing districts, which permit commercial and light manufacturing uses, would be retained in the core of the gallery district on the midblocks between West 20th and West 22nd Streets and between West 24th and West 27th Streets. Within these areas, museums and non-commercial galleries would be permitted as-of-right to reinforce the arts-related uses of the neighborhood. Additional bulk controls would require street walls within the M1-5 district to ensure that new development conforms to the existing built context.”

While this is both broad and vague, it is the first time in New York City’s history that a gallery district has been acknowledged. The degree to which it is enforced and enhanced will be determined by the actions of those who get involved. Developers are highly motivated to influence this resolution and to obtain variances that can affect available space for galleries within these areas. To preserve West Chelsea for the arts, galleries should be as well.

Unless galleries and dealers in West Chelsea get involved in the preservation of  West Chelsea as a long-term home for galleries, higher rents and development will push galleries out as they did in SoHo, the East Village and just about everywhere else over the past 213 years, and where they go from here is the big unknown. In the past, galleries have simply moved to under-developed neighborhoods elsewhere, but this is increasingly less of an option. The West Chelsea Gallery Districts, with large warehouse space, concrete floors and high ceilings in a compact 12 block area, are still ideally suited for gallery use. They’re worth preserving.

 

 

The map below shows the two M1-5 districts in blue over-layed on plat maps, with the High-Line in green, showing who’s in and who’s out. There are 62 lots – or buildings – within these two districts: 34 in West Chelsea North and 28 in West Chelsea South.

 

WCH_North_South_Plat_FLAT_0

 

A few things could help to preserve these two areas as gallery districts over the long term: the language in the zoning resolution could be strengthened, or they could be landmarked as historic / cultural districts by the Landmarks Preservation Committee, or tax incentives for landlords to make it easier for small to mid-size galleries to stay in West Chelsea could be adopted by the city.

 

Here’s a strange idea:

 

Chelsea_Blue_Zone_SK1

 

Contact Earl if you want to know more.