What Could Have Been: 28-40 West 23rd Street’s Rooftop Renovation

28-40 West 23rd Street, concept rendering by George Boyle Architect28-40 West 23rd Street, concept rendering by George Boyle Architect

The pre-war building at 23-40 West 23rd Street, known to most for its ground-floor Home Depot, is one of the most attractive structures in Chelsea, with its intricate detailing and stark whiteness contrasted against the smaller and dingier buildings on the block.

The building has grown increasingly popular with tech companies as Chelsea and the broader Midtown South area has emerged as a high-rent hub. And to capitalize on the neighborhood’s rising stock, the brokers charged with leasing the structure – Colliers International – once commissioned a study to examine the feasibility of refurbishing the building’s top level, and turning the rooftop into an inviting space.

28-40 West 23rd Street, concept rendering by George Boyle Architect

28-40 West 23rd Street, concept rendering by George Boyle Architect

“Within the existing penthouse,” wrote architect George Boyle, “a new elliptical skylight” – termed “the egg” – “commands the entire roof to allow views to the north and create a main multi-purpose space.”

“Two new floors along the west,” they continued, “culminate around a glass structure that […] focuses to the view to the north and the Empire State Building.”

The above plans would have happened, had the design been brought to fruition. Sadly, the city’s straitjacket of a building code limited the potential to take advantage of remaining air rights, as Colliers broker Andrew Roos told the Commercial Observer back in 2012.

“A lot of the building’s structure is built from wood and to do the addition, the regulations require you to rip all of that out and replace it with steel which would be a tremendous job,” he said.

Ironically, the current building has undergone a number of transformations over the years, as the architects detail. But, sadly, modern laws do not allow the same sort of dynamism that created New York City’s most attractive structures in the first place.

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