The Upper West Side has proven to be one of the most difficult areas to build, with a growing amount of land area contained in historic districts and much of the remainder constrained by tight zoning regulations. Over the years, its protective residents have been involved in the city’s most memorable development battles: fighting tooth and nail to reduce the scale of the Riverside South master plan; lessen shadows caused by the redevelopment of the New York Coliseum site (Time Warner Center); and more recently spearheading the downzoning of a 51-block swath of Broadway due to grievances caused by Extell’s Ariel East and West towers.
For the most part, the defensive strategy has allowed the neighborhood to retain much of its pre-war charms and human-scaled side streets. However, along its southern edge, where the buildings around Lincoln Center scale upwards to Midtown, zoning allowances are more generous. Two as-of-right towers are sure to ruffle some preservationists’ feathers and are poised to be the neighborhood’s biggest yet.
In 2014, the commercial-centric developers at SJP Properties purchased the former Lincoln Square Synagogue building at 200-208 Amsterdam Avenue for $275 million. The site is on axis to West 69th Street, and its small lot beside the urban renewal drabness of Lincoln Towers can accommodate nearly 400,000 square feet of floor area.
Late last year, The Real Deal reported that the Steven Pozycki-led company along with Mitsui Fudosan America planned to erect a 51-story, 112-unit condo tower “catering to New Yorkers and families from the suburbs looking to downsize and move into the city.” The tower will be among the tallest residential buildings on the Upper West Side, and its higher levels are sure to capture views of Central Park and the Hudson River. Building permits have yet to be filed, and no word on who the selected designers are, but SJP president Allen Goldman told TRD that the building will be “highly contextual with the architecture of the Upper West Side.”
Last month, the Observer reported that Japanese lender Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank provided a $160 million mortgage for the project, and as a sign that demolition/construction is nearing, a set of permits was recently filed, calling for scaffolding and a construction shed to be erected around the travertine-clad structure. The doomed building designed by the firm of Hausman & Rosemberg presents an exuberant, pin-wheel form and was finished in 1970. The congregation vacated the structure in 2013, moving a few doors down to a new home designed by Cetra/Ruddy Architects.
Three avenues east, at 36-44 West 66th Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West, Extell Development and Megalith Capital have assembled a large development plot with rumors circulating of a possible super tower rising as high as 80 stories. In line with Extell’s tight-lipped nature pertaining to their real estate ventures, no official details on the project have yet to be released.
What we do know is that in 2014, Megalith purchased three offices buildings owned by the Walt Disney Company for $85 million. In July, TRD reported that Extell purchased the adjacent lot, home to the synagogue of Congregation Habonim for $45 million, where they plan to build a soaring condo tower along with Megalith from the combined 15,000 square foot footprint.
Preliminary new building permits were filed in November under the LLC Megalith Urban Park and list SLCE as the architects of record. The permits detail a 25-story, 185,000-square-foot residential tower with a home for Congregation Habonim at its base. The scope of the project could be increased with the purchase of up to 130,000 square feet of development rights available from the landmarked First Battery Armory next door, and 68,000 square feet available from the Jewish Guild Healthcare building behind the site at 15 West 66th Street.
There’s an indication that developers may purchase the Jewish Guild building outright and demolish it. Two permits were filed last month by Exell/Megalith’s architect, SLCE and another by la and surveying and engineering company. Also, last month The Observer reported that GuildNet, a major tenant of the building, will be relocating to Midtown.
Last year the team completed demolition of the parcel’s low-rise structures, and currently an army of earthmovers are mobilized at the site ready to capture an unknown amount of air space. To seize the coveted Central Park views as the developer’s “Urban Park LLC” alludes to, the tower must rise at least 300 feet high to eclipse the rooflines of The Europa condo and the Park Ten co-op.
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Neighborhoods : Upper West Side