Written by Richard Barth, Group Leader, Capalino’s Land Use, Housing, and Real Estate practice
On December 19, the City Council approved the rezoning by the La Hermosa Christian Church for its site located on the northeast corner of Central Park at Fifth Avenue on Duke Ellington Circle. This rezoning – to a 12 FAR density — will ensure the survival of the church by facilitating a development containing mixed-income residential along with a new church facility. It will provide an endowment to fund the church and its mission in perpetuity. The church’s space would be expanded, with a large sanctuary, community and multi-purpose spaces, a fully accessible and code compliant building, and classroom, meeting and office spaces.
La Hermosa Christian Church, founded in 1938, is a longtime Harlem anchor for cultural and religious life. The church at Duke Ellington Circle is referred to as a mother church of Hispanic Congregations of the Christian Church f (the Disciples of Christ), which has 3627 congregations in the United States and 34 in New York. Unfortunately, the church building has failing heating and cooling systems, many spaces are inaccessible and unusable, and the ability to serve its congregation and community are severely compromised.
A New Approach
Many houses of worship throughout the City are confronting capital and operating needs that surpass their ability to fund, threatening their survival. La Hermosa Christian Church, led by Pastor Dan Feliciano, saw an opportunity to address its daunting needs by capitalizing on its premier location on Duke Ellington Circle. Early in the process, the church made a key decision to seek zoning entitlements prior to partnering with a developer in order to maximize its value and have greater control over its destiny. Advised by a team that included Jamie Cella of Hudson Advisors, FXCollaborative Architects, Capalino+ Company, and Herrick, Feinstein, the team successfully guided the rezoning through the public land use review process culminating in the December 19th approval. At Capalino, we are pleased to have been part of this team to help ensure a successful rezoning.
The Approved Project
The approved project is providing state of the art community and educational space, with all programming located above grade. The church will have its entry and a visible presence on Duke Ellington Circle facing Central Park. Sensitively designed by FX Collaborative, the project approvals include bulk modifications to create a strong civic presence on the circle with a building form commensurate with this important location. Overall, the project will rise in height to 340 feet and contain 226,000 square feet of floor area. Mandatory Inclusionary Housing applies, resulting in 50 to 60 permanently affordable housing units. In addition, as part of the Council approval, the Church agreed to a financial commitment to help preserve over 300 units of affordable housing in Community Board 10.
With zoning approvals in place, the next steps include the selection of a developer to implement the approved plans. La Hermosa Christian Church will be working closely with its team of real estate advisors to select a developer that maximizes the value to the Church and ensures that the goals of the rezoning are fully realized.
Richard Barth co-leads Capalino’s Land Use, Housing, and Real Estate practice. For further information about how to maximize value on your site, please contact him at 212.616.5845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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