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Central Park West Church Plows Towards Condo-Filled Future

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There are more than 25 houses of worship getting converted into residences right now, and here's a closer look at one. The 47,000-square-foot church at the corner of 96th Street and Central Park West is currently undergoing a conversion, and facing some considerable challenges because it's a landmark.

The eventual condos better be worth it: the building's price has escalated at a breakneck pace. The California-based Crenshaw Christian Center bought in 2004 for $14 million, and sold the space for a whopping $26 million in June. Another developer allegedly bought it for $46 million after that, and now may want to flip it, so we can see how these things can escalate.

A lawyer for the owners, whoever they are, reassured the Times, repeating himself at least four times, that the converted church will absolutely not look hideous. 1) "Our prime motivation and goal is to restore this building and preserve it and keep it beautiful." 2) "Some of those changes will require some alteration to the building's facade, but we're going to do this in a sensitive way." 3) "This is not about adding significantly to this building. It's not about creating a tower." 4) "This is a restoration and preservation project. We have not framed this as a development project."

Restoration and preservation though it may be, the owners have filed an application with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to replace some windows and add new ones to the Beaux-Arts granite facade, which was designed by Carrere and Hastings, the duo behind the New York Public Library's iconic 42nd Street branch. (Since a giant, airy hall must somehow be carved up into individual rooms, which must have windows.) The LPC also said the application includes a new metal-and-glass entrance on 96th Street and a rooftop addition. Can't wait to see what the hard-line commissioners will have to say about that one.

One particular challenge for the developers is the large, John La Farge-designed stained glass window over the main entrance; back when the church first opened it boasted "gold chandeliers, marble floors, and curved pews made of Circassian walnut." Those pews, alas, are already gone.

Meanwhile, a trustee of the church, which has joined with another congregation on West 68th Street after its sale, said that the thought of the building undergoing any major changes was "excruciating." The church apparently tried everything to raise funds, "including building a tower," before they sold, but Landmarks regulations ended up being so strict about exterior changes that it wasn't worth it to try to profit from the space themselves. Let's see what renderings will fly before the LPC in the coming months, shall we?
· A Difficult Passage From Church to Condominium [NYT]
· Landmarked Upper West Side Church Is Latest To Go Condo [Curbed]
· All 361 Central Park West coverage [Curbed]
· Mapping 26 NYC Houses of Worship Being Replaced By Condos [Curbed]