Developer Unveils West 54th Street Hotel Renderings

By Jill Colvin on November 7, 2011 1:16pm | Updated on November 7, 2011 4:18pm

Architects revealed their plans for the new hotel at 237 W. 54th Street.
Architects revealed their plans for the new hotel at 237 W. 54th Street.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MIDTOWN — The plan for a new West 54th Street hotel has finally been revealed.

Renderings for the Moinian Group's towering hotel, which were unveiled to residents at a Community Board 5 committee meeting last week, show a building set back from the curb, narrowing as it rises, and constructed of a material resembling brown brick.

According to the developer's lawyer, Nick Hockens, the plan is to construct a yet-to-be-branded 34-story hotel at 237 W. 54th St., between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, with a bar/restaurant on the main floor.

While the Department of Buildings has already given the go-ahead for a 27-story hotel, the developer is now pushing to add an additional 24,000 square feet allow the building to rise to 34 stories.

The application is fueling new concerns from neighbors about the block, which is already one of the most construction-heavy in the city. Harry Gross' 67-story Marriott hotel is rising at the corner of Broadway and 54th Street, while Boston Properties' 1-million-square-foot glass office tower is going up along Eighth Avenue.

The only building left standing among the soaring cranes and razed construction sites is 241-245 W. 54th Street, a four-story mostly residential building also owned by Moinian, located on the north side of the block between Eighth and Broadway.

"This is an enormous amount of square footage being developed on a fairly quiet street,” said community board member Meile Rockefeller, who said she was deeply concerned by both the amount of construction and the new density the hotels will bring.

"I think it's really time to say ... enough," said Rockefeller.

The push to raise the height of the hotel is also renewing concerns from tenants in the four-story remaining building, some of whom fear they could be pushed out.

Linda Hopper, who co-owns Characters, a large bar on the ground floor of the building, said any disruptions would be devastating to the bar, which opened last year and has nine years remaining on its lease.

She said she and her two business partners, who met when they were bartenders together, put their life savings into opening the space, and did much of the renovation work themselves.

“This building is people’s homes," she said. "It’s people’s livelihoods."

Others fear a mishap during next-door construction could damage the building’s foundation to such an extent that tenants could be forced to vacate their businesses and homes.

Trent Gouch, 74, who has lived in the building for nearly 50 years, said the demolition process, which began this spring, has been marred with problems, including, most recently, an incident last week when he and other tenants allege workers caused damage to their building’s east wall.

Bill Sharp, the owner of the recently opened Creative Catering on the ground floor at 241-245 W. 54th Street, said he was working in his office last Monday morning when he suddenly felt vibrations coming through the wall.

“There was a lot of screaming, yelling going on,” said Sharp, 30, who said construction workers told him that there had been a slip-up, but that no structural damage had occurred.

A Department of Buildings spokeswoman said the department had no record of that incident on file.

But the DOB has logged 15 complaints against the property since excavation work began in May, including complaints of bricks and debris falling to the sidewalk and several complaints that contractor work was undermining the building next door.

The DOB did not issue any violations in response to those complaints, a spokeswoman said.

Oskar Brecher, director of development for the Moinian Group said the company has no plans to evict tenants, and added that excavation and construction work at the hotel would have “minimal impact” on the next-door property, which has been outfitted with vibration and crack monitoring devices, he said.

“We are very happy with our investment,” Brecher said, adding that the four-story building has already sold its air rights, which restricts what can be built above the fourth story.

Brecher said the hotel project financing is being provided by a partner he declined to name. He said the developers are taking a "backseat" in the hotel planning process.

Despite concerns, Sharp said he welcomed his new neighbor.

“There is concern when there’s construction going on directly next door to us, but for the future, it’s good for everybody,” he said, pointing to the new customers and foot traffic that will soon come to the block.

Despite some hesitation, the board committee also voted in favor of the hotel's height increase, suggesting that the developers set up a complaint hotline to field residents’ concerns.

The full board will weigh in on the issue on Nov. 10.

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