New York Historical Society Tower

The New York Historical Society wants to begin a $20 million renovation of its landmark building at 170 Central Park West that would also allow a developer to build a 23-story glass apartment tower that has 18 floors of condominium apartments behind the society’s museum and library.

The apartment tower would be 280 feet high, doubling the 136-foot height of the current structure. The master plan calls for 70,000 feet of new program and office space for the society, as well as 120,000 square feet for residential use.

The lead renovation architect is Paul Spencer Byard of Platt Byard Dovell White in Manhattan, and the proposal to potential developers specifies that a “star architect” be chosen to design the tower. The society is seeking a developer who would provide financing and construct not only the apartment tower and an extra floor atop its four-story building but also a five-story annex that would rise above an adjacent empty lot it owns at 7-13 West 76th Street. The first phase is expected to start in the summer of 2007.

The society has approached the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which must approve changes to the exterior of the building between 76th and 77th Streets. The exterior has landmark status not only individually, but also as part of the Upper West Side-Central Park West Historic District and a smaller domain, the Central Park West-76th Street Historic District. The Department of City Planning must also sign off, and public hearings are expected.

Opponents say the design is out of character for the historic area, fear the “domino effect” its erection would have on the Upper West Side, and feel that it is inappropriate to turn a historic landmark into profit-making real estate.

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