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Harlem church pins renovation hopes on adjacent 33-story tower

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Leaders of La Hermosa church seek city approval to renovate their space and build a residential tower next to it

FXCollaborative

Leaders of a Harlem church are seeking city approval for plans to redevelop the space and add a 33-story residential tower with approximately 50 affordable units next door.

La Hermosa Christian Church, located at 5 West 110th Street, has served the Harlem Latino community since it was founded in 1938 and has operated in its current building since 1960. But in recent years, its leaders say, the building, which is not ADA-accessible, has deteriorated and no longer fulfills the needs of the congregation.

That is why church leaders put forth plans to redevelop the church and build a 33-story mixed-use residential building next to it. In May, they applied for several zoning changes, including a special permit to waive parking requirements, in order to facilitate construction of the tower. The application is currently under review by the city, with a City Planning Commission (CPC) hearing happening on Wednesday morning.

In June, Manhattan Community Board 10 voted against the proposal, citing concerns about the developer not being chosen yet, as well as affordability of the residential units. “Without a developer in place to authorize the project costs and/or profitability, compliance to [Mandatory Inclusionary Housing] mandates at both the city and community level, the building of an on-site mixed use facility at this site is both ambiguous and ambitious,” a letter from the community board to the City Planning Commission reads.

“While we commend the church for shepherding the process as a means of maintaining control, we find it difficult to think that a savvy developer will agree to the financial terms and covenants of the church with no modification,” the community board added.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer recommended disapproval of the land use application as well, citing similar concerns regarding affordability and that “the affordable housing requirement might not justify the additional density to be realized by developers.”

According to city documents, the project will have approximately 160 residential units in total, 50 of which will be affordable, Church leaders say, with 50 percent preference given to residents of the area.

The proposed building, designed by FXCollaborative, includes an accessible space for the church with a screened glass facade, an atrium for art exhibits and performances, practice rooms, classrooms, and a black-box theater. The church will partner with Manhattan School of Music to create a community music school offering free classes to children in the area.

The CPC is expected to vote on the land use application after today’s meeting.

“The La Hermosa congregation and the entire Harlem community deserve to feel pride in our community spaces; our children deserve arts and music education regardless of their family income,” La Hermosa pastor Dan Feliciano said in a statement.

“We are glad to be leading a project that will deliver these things, and are honored to be able to grow our impact in our next chapter by partnering with an iconic music school like MSM to provide free music and arts education for Harlem kids.”