The disembodied church steeple sitting in front of a 26-story NYU dorm on East 12th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues makes for one of the more head-scratching sights in New York. This jarring juxtaposition results from a confluence of powerful New York forces, including religion, immigration, real estate, and the expanding appetite of one large institution, New York University, and the shrinking resources of another, the United States Postal Service.
The Church of St. John the Baptist, located at 213 West 30th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, has stood in Midtown since 1872. Designed in the French Gothic-style by architect Napoleon LeBrun, it first served New York City’s German population and was later assumed by the Capuchin Friars. In 1974, a brown brick Brutalist structure was added on the other side of the site at 210 West 31st Street, facing Penn Station, to serve as the Capuchin Monastery of St. John the Baptist. This two-story building was recently acquired by KBS Capital and Onyx Equities, who plan to spend $14.2 million converting the property into a 30,000-square-foot retail space, reports The Real Deal. Though initial plans don’t seem to touch the 144-year-old church, a rendering of the 31st Street project shows a glassy, neon-laden facade.