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Thread: West-Park Presbyterian Church - Amsterdam Avenue and West 86th Street

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    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Default West-Park Presbyterian Church - Amsterdam Avenue and West 86th Street

    About two years ago, the building committee approached several developers and chose the Related Companies to explore what might be done. Related came up with a plan to raze the existing structure, a combination of two connected buildings, and to put up a 23-story condominium tower with new quarters for the church projecting outward at the corner.



    The blueprint for the apartment tower, currently 18 stories, calls for 40 condominium units. In return, Related would extend the church $16 million in credit toward construction fees.



    The design produced for the Friends of West-Park by a collaboration between Peter Samton, a partner in Gruzen Samton Architects, and Page Cowley of Page Ayres Cowley Architects, would more closely resemble the original building, at least on the exterior, with three of the walls expected to be retained. Described more as a concept than an actual design, the plan calls for reconfiguration of the roof into a convex shape, repair of the red sandstone walls and preservation of the stained glass windows. But the interior would be gutted, and the sanctuary, now about 40 feet tall, would be raised to the level of the balcony, opening up space below for other uses.

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    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    There is a debate about what to be done for the church...and those are the 2 proposals.

    I hope they built that apartment building! It looks amazing!

    What do you think? :wink:

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    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Oh in case you don't know the church is on the Upper West Side at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and West 86th Street.

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    In the long run... londonlawyer's Avatar
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    Tearing that church down would be an utter tradgedy. I had hoped that the time had passed in which beautiful, pre-WWII buildings were razed. Tearing this church down to put a modern glass box would be horrible. There are many shitty, white brick buildings in Manhattan to tear down. I would really be sick if the church is demolished.

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    West-Park Church
    A Neighborhood Gets Involved


    From the NY Times: Published: April 25, 2004

    If any one church exemplifies the dilemma facing houses of worship with diminishing membership and mounting debt, it is the West-Park Presbyterian Church, a stately 112-year-old Romanesque Revival structure at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and West 86th Street. Partly covered by scaffolding to contain chunks of sandstone, some as large as 20 pounds, that have been coming loose, it requires an estimated $2.8 million for facade repairs and $8 million for a more comprehensive restoration.

    There are currently two distinctly opposing plans for the building: one for total replacement with an ultramodern glass structure, the other for a historic preservation, albeit with significant alterations. These plans are moving on parallel tracks through an approval process that involves the church itself, its trustees and various levels of the Presbytery.

    In a meeting held on Monday, the trustees of the Presbytery voted not to give a green light to either plan but to refer both back to their sponsors for revision. The board's reservations concerned financing rather than design, according to the Rev. Dr. Robert L. Brashear, the church's pastor, who added that he still hoped for final approval before the summer.

    West-Park's leaders began acknowledging that drastic measures might be in order more than 10 years ago, and a merger with Rutgers Presbyterian Church at 236 West 73rd Street was proposed. It was defeated.

    The questions that followed were vexing. "Do we simply do nothing and see how long we can continue to stretch things out?" Dr. Brashear said. "Do we seek another merger, or do we rebuild for rebirth? The congregation voted to pursue the development option."

    About two years ago, the building committee approached several developers and chose the Related Companies to explore what might be done. Related came up with a plan to raze the existing structure, a combination of two connected buildings, and to put up a 23-story condominium tower with new quarters for the church projecting outward at the corner.

    The proposed church and the apartment building were both designed by the firm of Franke, Gottsegen, Cox. Subject to modification, its design of the church is basically a prow-shaped base of stone, from which would rise a sweep of transparent glass panels culminating in a 125-foot carillon tower.

    "When you enter the sanctuary, your eye will be drawn up to a luminous well of light," said Erika Franke, the partner leading the design team for the project. "You will see the crisscrossing of the structure, like a canopy of trees, but you won't be able to see the top, which we think is an expression of sacredness.

    "The sanctuary is very flexible and interfaith use is possible so that space can be shared with other denominations. The church told us it wanted a refuge and a sense of `communitarian communality.' We took our cue from them." The 28,000-square-foot building would double the space for social service and education programs.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    When neighbors, particularly ones in adjoining buildings, learned that the plan involved a high rise that could block air and light and that it called for demolition rather than alteration, they swung into action, organizing a group called Friends of West- Park. Its goal was not only to protest but also to come up with a viable alternative plan and the funds to help support it.

    As Thomas Vitullo-Martin, co-chairman of the group, put it: "I was not interested, as a community leader, in telling the church that it had to maintain itself for the community good without the community taking some role. We have formed a development company capable of doing what we say and working on a partnership with the church."

    The Friends assembled a team of architects and economic and business consultants who were paid for their efforts and who suggested that a portion of the church be sold. "We would find what we call a capital partner and are looking for a not-for-profit entity, probably a school, that would pay for the right to develop a part of the building and their own cost of renovation," Mr. Vitullo-Martin said.

    In addition, two neighboring buildings have already agreed to the terms of a lease of easement for air rights, under which they would pay for air and light. The final figure for the easement has yet to be determined, but it will probably exceed $2.5 million, Mr. Vitullo-Martin said.

    "The whole interior would hark back to the original design, but it would suit the way worship is performed now," Ms. Cowley said. "It will have movable seating, altar, lectern and table. We will replicate the wood graining to show the ceiling and walls the way they intended, and the stained glass windows will be restored."

    Pointing out that there was no more similarity between the two designs than there is between a cat and a horse, she said: "Successful rehabilitation allows the character and original intent of the first architect to come through. So the question is, If not every square inch is sacred turf, how much modification can the structure bear without losing what makes it special?"

    For the time being, church leaders are neutral about which design and which financial arrangement they favor. Neighbors at an informational meeting held in the church on Wednesday clearly favored the Friends alternative. Each member of the congregation can vote, with final approval up to the entire Presbytery, a legislative meeting of representatives of all the churches.

    Despite the fact that the Friends of West-Park proposal represented widespread opposition to the church's original plan, Dr. Brashear said: "I didn't object to that at all. On the West Side, this could have gone to lawsuits and people walking around with signs. Instead, in a relatively short period of time, a great deal of positive and creative energy has gone into trying to find solutions that would meet the interests of both church and community."

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    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    ^This is the article that explains what is going on with the church.

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    Krulltime, thanks for this info. IMO, neither design is that exciting and the first design (new construction) creates a very weak corner. Obviously, the congregation must decide what is feasible financially. One question: Will the adaptive reuse enable the congregation to take full benefit of improved physical space for worship, offices, and interfaith uses?

    One sentence in the article alludes to the West Park congregation being open to sharing their new/renovated space with a congregation of another faith. This could be a very practical solution for a church of few members with a large and aging building to maintain. If this is so, then new construction might better express a building that shelters more than one faith community. This will be an interesting project to follow. It could become a model for other struggling congregations. I'm glad this process has remained free of rancor (so far).

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    In the long run... londonlawyer's Avatar
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    They could also save the church's shell (a la Hearst on 8th Ave.) and build a tower over it if they deem that necessary. It appears that the plan which keeps the original building keeps just the exterior shell in tact.

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    Both designs are great but the first is gorgeous.

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    In the long run... londonlawyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stern
    Both designs are great but the first is gorgeous.
    The first design is nice, but it wouldn't even fit in in that location. If Mr. Kurtz from the Heart of Darkness could witness the possible razing of this beautiful, old church which could never be replicated, his response would be quite predictable, namely: "The horror! The horror!"

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    Partly covered by scaffolding to contain chunks of sandstone, some as large as 20 pounds, that have been coming loose, it requires an estimated $2.8 million for facade repairs and $8 million for a more comprehensive restoration.
    Well at the current moment it is an eyesore of a church. Plus the church needs to follow what other new religions are doing these days...building new modern churches to make them attractive and brighter and not just dark rooms when is the case once stepping in it. They are in a lot of debt and their membership worship attendance is diminishing.

    Sometimes there are sacrifices to make and sometimes there are not. I said this is a sacrife to make. :wink:

    I think this residential building mix in with the church is one of those amazing ideas out there so far and it will be really interesting to see how it will turn out in the end. In the design, the building mix-in with the church looks like they are happy and in harmony with eachother I must said. I wish the tower was bigger but most of the buildings are of the same size and that is alright I guess.

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    Both designs look good. Here's more on the one with the tower.

    http://63.240.68.126/~admin11/index....8Z%2D%2C%20%0A

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    ^Wow thanks for the website!

    Yeah I defenetly like the idea for the modern church and residential building. It will be a mistake otherwise to pass this opportunity to something so creative.

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    The interior worship space has a strong focal point and should be easily adaptable for another faith tradition. Furnishings appear to be movable which increases multiple use for other functions and possible additional income. However, I find the exterior to be a "wall" on this highly visible corner and hope that the design can be improved at street level.

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    Wow the more I see it the more I like it...Thanks for posting the renderings...

    Yeah the 'Wall' of the church seems odd but cool in its own sort of way but most of the structure is amazing inside and outside.

    I am not very religious but this church if built will more likely make me go back to church more often :wink:

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