The Center at West Park (CWP) announced in a recent press release that it has secured $3.5 million in pledges to potentially save West-Park Presbyterian Church from demolition at the hands of a developer set to rid the building of its landmark status and flip it into a residential high rise.
CWP is a not-for-profit community performing arts center which has occupied the church, located at 165 West 86th Street, since 2017. It is beholden it its landlord, which is also the church. The two groups have been at odds over the future of the site for months.
CWP wants to preserve the church’s landmark status and continue its work in the space. West-Park Presbyterian Church, a religious corporation consisting of the church’s congregation, twelve strong as of April 2022, supports the structure’s demolition, the undoing of its landmark status, and the sale of the site for $33 million to developer Alchemy.
The Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) will ultimately decide the fate of the building. Until recently, CWP seemed like an overmatched underdog in the fight. After all, West-Park Presbyterian Church had a $33 million offer versus … what?
That question has now been answered.
CWP secured $3.5 million in pledges that would “fully fund [its] offer to buy the building from the West-Park congregation, which voted to sell last year after decades of declining membership and dwindling funds. Upon purchasing the property, CWP will launch a capital campaign to raise public and private funds to preserve and upgrade the building as a vibrant and inclusive facility for arts and culture,” according to the press release.
The $3.5 million is just “initial funding,” according to Michael Hiller, an attorney who is representing CWP. He confirmed that an official offer was made back in June 2022 which also included air rights “estimated conservatively at $13 million. Along with the confirmed cash, this is a very substantial offer.”
Hiller also mentioned that CWP hopes to add $10-12 million in restorations which would bring its total package closer to $28 million.
“The LPC is expected to meet again soon to review new evidence and vote on the demolition plan. With strong public support, combined with compelling expert testimony from a team of preservation lawyers and engineers, The Center at West Park is confident the LPC will vote to reject the Presbytery’s demolition plan and preserve West Park as a beacon of art, culture, and architectural history on the Upper West Side,” according to the press release.
It now seems that CWP has a fighting chance to save itself and to save a piece of Upper West Side history.