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No More Teachers, No More Books at Hell's Kitchen Durst Site

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A big block of land at 625 West 57th Street, owned by the Durst Organization, has a new plan in the works, and to make it happen a West Side oldie is about to come down. The humble Artkraft Strauss Sign Corp. warehouse has faced the Hudson River from across Twelfth Avenue for generations. With its classic hand-painted sign, this is where the old Times Square neon supersigns were built. Artkraft has moved onto bigger digs and its old home will now make way for a new five-story commercial building. This plan from Durst supersedes the previously proposed six-story ultra-private school that was to rise at mid-block next door to The Helena, a Durst luxury rental on Eleventh Avenue. But now it appears that classrooms are out and offices are in.

That school, called the Nations Academy, was a dream of Christopher Whittle, the former owner of Esquire. But the Durst-Whittle deal fell apart following the financial freeze in 2008, only to re-emerge the next year when new financing was put in place. A plush and private plan from architects Perkins Eastman never got off the ground and now the Academy that wouldn't die is, once again, a no-go here. Despite some fanfare a year ago trumpeting anew the Whittle scheme, the Nations Academy website has disappeared into the ether.

Durst's new commercial and retail proposal is from SLCE Architects. The most recent filings at the Department of Buildings show that the latest plan is to build on the full remainder of the block, a mega-plot measuring 550' x 200' where Durst once proposed construction of a cybercenter and then a residential tower called The Rose. But that's all in the past. Now, as detailed in the latest Schedule A, there will be lots of parking down low, with retail at street level and offices on floors 3 through 5. To the north across 58th Street it will face the grand old IRT Powerhouse by McKim, Mead, and White, a Beaux Arts beauty that preservationists are trying to get protected.

The two-story Artkraft Strauss building at the west end of the site, a colorful chunk of funk that was a favorite canvas of street artists, greets drivers barreling down from the elevated West Side Highway. Inside, artist Dean Radinovsky recently built a cinder block chapel of lights and memorialized it on YouTube. The old Artkraft pile is now being prepped for imminent demolition: doors are padlocked, broken windows abound and a little Bobcat chews away at the innards. Another old timer bites the dust, but the Dursts are moving on.
· Luxury Renters Get Advance Word of Incoming Kiddie Invasion [Curbed]
· 625 West 57th Street coverage [Curbed]
· New Building Application - 625 West 57th Street [DOB]

625 W 57th St

625 West 57th Street, Manhattan, NY 10019