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Rendering of The Cortaland from the most open section of Hudson River Park (All renderings credit of Related Companies, Olson Kundig and RAMSA via M18) Rendering of The Cortaland from the most open section of Hudson River Park (All renderings credit of Related Companies, Olson Kundig and RAMSA via M18)
Eleventh Avenue has come a long way since its early days when it was nicknamed "Death Avenue" — the time from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s when freight trains barreled down its center, mowing down hapless pedestrians and carriages as they transported precious commodities to and from the burgeoning metropolis. According to a New York Times story by David Dunlap, the League to End Death Avenue estimated that there had been 548 deaths and 1,574 injuries over the years on Eleventh Avenue. To help stem the crisis, the New York Central Railroad embarked on their own failed "Vision Zero" strategy, hiring "West Side Cowboys" to ride horses and wave flags in front of the trains to prevent collisions.
The 1929 opening of the elevated High Line made Eleventh Avenue less of a hazard to pedestrians and motorists, and the last street-level tracks were removed in 1941. Still, the west side remained unfashionable for decades as it remained a hub for the city's fading maritime industries, had lacking subway service, and offered few residential amenities. The aroma of livestock and the Meatpacking District probably didn't help either. As the city transitioned into a post-industrial economy, buildings for manufacturing, shipping, and storage gave way to nightclubs, galleries, and artist lofts. We all know what comes next.
Eleventh AVenue Death Avenue Eleventh Avenue in 1910 (Taken by Grantham Bain via Library of Congress)
Tenth and Eleventh avenues on Manhattan's west side were nicknamed Death Avenue. The last street-level track was removed in 1941.
An on-ramp to the still under-construction elevated West Side Elevated Highway with site of The Cortland to the left
Chelsea waterfront today with a landscaped at-grade West Side Highway. The Cortland under construction to the left
Google earth aerial of area of The Cortland with its development site highlighted
But thanks to creative thinking, West Chelsea has given us some of the best-known examples of adaptive reuse in the city. Inventive rezoning by the Bloomberg administration preserved and fostered the Chelsea Arts District as the world's largest art district of now more than 400 operating galleries. The former trans-oceanic liner berths of Chelsea Piers have been cleverly adapted into a fitness, recreational, and entertainment country club of sorts. And everyone should know the story of the High Line and Chelsea Market by now.
As the seamstresses, writers, bird-stuffers, and those who tended the shipping industries departed, those seeking a more Sex and the City lifestyle eventually took their place. Over the last fifteen years, new segments of the 550-acre Hudson River Park which spawned a parade of 'starchitect'-designed condos that have dramatically altered the view of Manhattan's west side. To join Annabelle Selldorf's "Sky Garage" at 200 Eleventh, Jean Nouvel's "Vision Machine" at 100 Eleventh, and Bjarke Ingels' torqued (and troubled) twins, The Eleventh, is The Cortland, a 144-unit condominium development by Related Companies that pays tribute to the area's blue-collar heritage through its traditional design.
Proudly standing 22 floors high, The Cortland is billed as a celebration of American craftsmanship. Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects and Seattle-based Olson Kundig, the team says the building's aesthetic was inspired by West Chelsea’s rich industrial history and architecture.

Unlike its glassier, avant-garde peers, The Cortland flaunts a classical massing enveloped in more than one million hand-laid bricks. Its stately entrance and rusticated limestone base would make the building seem more appropriate for a traditional residential setting — likely an intentional move to cement the area as a more established residential neighborhood, rather than one for globe-trotting loft collectors.
Model great room
Model bedroom
With separate wings facing Eleventh Avenue and 23rd Street, The Cortland's primary entrance is on tree-lined, art-laden 22nd Street. Its two buildings are arranged for homes to take full advantage of sweeping Hudson River views. Far-reaching skyline views can also be had since the area is relatively low-rise. The development team explains that the firms of Robert A.M. Stern and Olson Kundig were chosen for their understanding of how people want to live. The flexible studio to five-bedroom layouts will boast a "refined west coast aesthetic" and will be finished in high-quality natural materials. All units will bear high ceilings, open-plan living and dining areas, and numerous multifunctional spaces.
More details relating to The Cortland's residences and its full suite of amenities will be released once sales officially launch later this fall. CORE is leading sales and marketing efforts and occupancy is anticipated sometime in 2022.
The lobby will have a working fireplace
555-West-22nd Street The Cortland's private motor court
Construction work as of May 2021
With its waterfront location between Hudson Yards and ever-growing Google, expect sales at top-of-market prices. The neighborhood is already one of the most exciting in the city with new parks that include Little Island, Chelsea Waterside Park, and the High Line, which can be accessed on 23rd Street (best visited early morning or inebriated late evening). City Winery recently opened the city's largest wine bar at Pier 57, and the Meatpacking District with its anchoring Whitney Museum is within walking distance.
While no longer "Death Avenue," Eleventh Avenue has some ways to go before it can be called pedestrian-friendly. A lack of bike lanes, sparse greenery, few retailers, and six lanes of traffic funneling into the West Side Highway makes it among the most hostile of Manhattan avenues. As the area continues its transitions into a Gold Coast for the well-heeled, one can expect further improvements to the public realm.
Kalmbach Publishing Company Eleventh Avenue. Yes, New York has always been chaotic, but has always sought innovative solutions to solve them. Let's continue. (Kalmbach Publishing Company)
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