Sale of West Building marks turning point for General Seminary

Historic building will be renovated and preserved

Posted Jan 26, 2012

[General Theological Seminary] The Rev. Lang Lowrey, President of The General Theological Seminary (GTS), announced today, January 25, that the Seminary has closed on the sale of the mixed use property known as West Building located on the 20th Street side of its historic campus between Ninth and Tenth Avenues in Chelsea. Proceeds from the sale to Manhattan real estate developers, The Brodsky Organization, enabled General to significantly reduce its debt load as well as fund the complete renovation of a 1930’s building, Seabury Hall, to create new, technology-enabled offices for the Seminary’s administration and faculty. The developer plans to re-establish a 20th Street entrance to the building and to convert it into approximately 16 residential units.

One of the first two seminary buildings erected on the site in the early 19th century, West Building had a companion structure, East Building. Built several years earlier as the Seminary’s first home, East Building was demolished by Dean Eugene Augustus Hoffman in the 1890s to make way for the faculty housing that was part of his Grand Design. “We are delighted that the sale of this building will ensure West Building’s continuing survival as a historic property,” said President Lowrey following the closing. “The extensive and costly renovations required to preserve the landmarked building were untenable for the Seminary to undertake and the proceeds from the sale have enabled us to further lighten a very burdensome debt load and to create beautiful new administrative offices.” Under the sales agreement between the Seminary and the Brodsky Organization the residential property will yield additional payments to the Seminary as the units are renovated and sold. The Seminary also has “right of first refusal” on future sales, enabling it to buy back individual units in the future.

The sale is the latest in a mutually beneficial relationship between General and Brodsky that began with the development of the Chelsea Enclave, a residential building that also houses the Seminary’s new Keller Library. In October 2010 Seminary trustees approved the sale of West Building along with several other properties as part of the Seminary’s Plan to Choose Life, a comprehensive financial initiative designed to substantially eliminate debt for the 194-year-old institution, as well as rebuild its endowment, create a balanced budget, and revitalize its mission. “With our overall financial situation out of the danger zone, our dormitory and office renovations completed, and a new leadership structure in place, January very clearly marks a turning point for GTS,” wrote Lowrey and Associate Dean Patrick Malloy in a joint letter to the Seminary community. “Together our energies can now be devoted far more exclusively to our mission of serving the church as an effective and vibrant institution of theological learning.”