HELL'S KITCHEN — A long-neglected Hell's Kitchen landmark — which was covered in scaffolding for decades and had become home to squatters and vagrants in recent years — is getting an overhaul to become a boutique hotel, its owners announced.
The Windermere, a landmarked Queen Anne-style building at West 57th Street and Ninth Avenue, is set to be transformed into a 175-room upscale hotel with an outdoor rooftop space, according to owner Mark Tress, who purchased the property in 2009.
In addition to the hotel rooms, Tress also plans to build permanent affordable housing, which would take up 28 percent of the building, plus retail spaces on the ground floor, the developer said.
"We find the proposed work for the most part praiseworthy and welcome, especially after the building’s long history of neglect and decay," Community Board 4 wrote in a largely positive letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission after a meeting last week.
However, CB4 objected to the ninth-floor rooftop extension, and hoped that a handicapped access platform would be changed so it blended into the building.
The plan will require approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, along with the Department of City Planning and the Buildings Department.
The Windermere has a rocky history. Built in the 1880s and converted to an artists' residence in 1895, it eventually was converted to single rooms and smaller apartments in the 1970s. In the 1980s, the managers of the building were convicted of harassing tenants and sent to jail, according to Community Board 4.
The next owner, Toa Construction, took over the building in 1986, but let the building fall into disrepair, leading the city's to file a judgment against Toa for "willful neglect of a landmark" and collect more than $1 million in penalties, CB4 said. The five remaining tenants left the building in 2009. After that, locals said squatters took over the building.
Many neighbors were happy for the restoration of the property, but some expressed concern that the new hotel could be a party-filled hotspot.
"For 30 years, it's been an awful thing to pass and it's time that something goes forward," said Serhij Hoshowsky, 66, who's lived next door for 35 years.
"I think putting amenities on the rooftop, a party room, or having outdoor space that is accessible to guests that are going to use this boutique hotel is the wrong way to go."
Michael Sillerman, an attorney for the project, said that the design of the building may change based on community input.
"We're going to explore ways to redesign and address those concerns," he said after hearing from worried neighbors at the CB4 meeting last Wednesday night. "We recognize there are quality-of-life concerns...and we want to be a good neighbor."
Steven Golden, who manages 408 W. 57th St. next door to the landmark, said he hopes the project moves forward, but in the right way.
"Our biggest concern in security and noise," he said. "We're supporting the development of the site — cleaning up that corner would be a great benefit to our building and the immediate community."