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Historic Midtown church conversion may be foiled by city

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Existing zoning laws may prevent the historic church from being incorporated into the hotel

For once it’s not a developer getting in the way of historic preservation. After prolific hotel developer Sam Chang agreed to preserve the facade of the 111-year-old Christ Church Memorial Building in Midtown, the city has now essentially made it impossible for the restoration to move forward, the New York Post reports.

Chang purchased the property at 344 West 36th Street for $50.75 million in 2014, and had initially planned to demolish the historic structure and replace it with a 20-story, 406-room hotel. However after pushback from the local community, the developer agreed to incorporate the facade of the church into the hotel, and also rebuild the church’s parish house, which had to be demolished for construction.

The city however has now told the developer that the project is not up to code. The problem is the second floor facade of the existing building. It’s slightly set back from the ground floor, and the current zoning rules require that buildings not have setbacks till at least 80-feet above the sidewalk.

While the church itself is over a hundred years old, the city is taking the whole structure into account as part of the hotel project. This means a significant portion of the brick and glass facade will have to be demolished for the hotel to move forward.

The city had approved the project initially in October last year, but rescinded in March this year. They rejected a revised proposal this July as well. Chang has already spent months securing the existing wall for construction, so it remains to be seen how the project will now move forward.