UPPER WEST SIDE — West End Collegiate Church got approval from Community Board 7 Wednesday for plans to build an 18-story residential high-rise along West 78th Street, once the Collegiate School moves to a new building in the Riverside Center in 2018.
Collegiate School, which has no connection to the church, will vacate the two adjacent buildings at 260 W. 78th St., known as Platten Hall, and 378 West End Ave., leaving the properties open for redevelopment by West End Collegiate Church, which bought the site for $125 million in August, The Real Deal first reported.
The church plans to demolish the 11-story Platten Hall, which was built in the 1960s, and build the 18-story building in its place that will connect to 387 West End Ave.
Together the new building and the existing West End Avenue property will form a single 66-unit building, though they'll appear as though they're separate buildings from the street, explained lead architect Richard Cook at the board meeting Wednesday.
The project is up for review by the Landmarks Preservation Commission sometime this month, as both buildings sit within the West End-Collegiate Historic District. The LPC typically takes the community board's vote on projects into consideration when making a decision.
In between the church and the West End Avenue building, the architects have included a narrow garden called the "Healing Turtle Island Garden," a reference to a reconciliation ceremony between the church and the Native American Lenape tribe for taking their land.
In addition to the garden, the new building will be scattered with balconies and canopies so that residents can grow their own plants, Cook said.
"The more green we can make the city the better we’re doing," he added.
Cook said he worked closely with the congregation, with the majority of members living in the neighborhood, to design a building that blends in with its surroundings. This includes the metalwork, architectural details, color and materials like red brick.
"We’re hoping to improve 78th Street," he said.
The church could have constructed a building that had 400 units, but opted instead not to use all of the developable space allowed at the site.
The new building will also be set back from the street and won't rise higher than its West End Avenue counterpart, "opening up more light and air," Cook explained.
Improvements to the West End Avenue building include the restoration of windows, cornices and two historic balconies, as well as a small rooftop addition.
Community Board 7 members were happy that the addition was designed to be barely visible from the street, as well as with the structure's "appropriateness," they said.
Some members wished the new building could include affordable housing, but they accepted the church's explanation that that would have meant possibly creating a bulkier building.
The apartment sales will also allow the church community to fund the upkeep of its 1892 church building.
"Our church is an architectural gem," said said church Rev. Michael Bos. [We're] using the proceeds to address repair issues."
The church could not say how much the project will cost nor when construction would start.