New Rentals Steps From St. John the Divine
Although luxury apartment towers and revered religious buildings might seem like awkward neighbors, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divinein Morningside Heights will soon welcome the second residential development to its 11.3-acre campus.
Finishing touches are being made to the Enclave at the Cathedral, a 15-story, 430-unit rental complex designed by Handel Architects and developed by the Brodsky Organization at 400 West 113th Street. The building runs the length of West 113th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive, just a few paces north of the famously unfinished cathedral, which began construction in 1892.
Dean Amro, a principal of the Brodsky Organization, said he expects tenants will begin moving into the first completed sections of the building in January, and for construction to be fully finished by May. “For us, it’s great to have the opportunity to build in such an amazing setting,” said Mr. Amro, citing both the cathedral’s grounds and nearby Morningside Park.
He also hopes to capitalize on the relative lack of other new developments in the area. “We think there will be a lot of growth from Columbia and other schools,” he said, “as well as the rest of Manhattan.”
But the project has been controversial, igniting protests from preservationists, area residents and architecture critics who say it’s too close to the cathedral and obscures views from the street. “It is a crying shame that this was allowed to be built,” said Laura Friedman, president of the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee, adding that she had collected thousands of signatures on a fruitless petition that called on theEpiscopal Diocese of New York to abandon the project. “It blocks and mars the northern side of that church — that beautiful facade with all sorts of wonderful detail.”
The Very Rev. James A. Kowalski, the cathedral’s dean, doesn’t see it that way. “We wanted to respect the architecture of the cathedral, which we think we’ve done,” he said. The church needed money, he added, because it had a “structural deficit,” along with “a lot of deferred maintenance and a depleted endowment.”
He said the church identified two development sites in 2003, in consultation with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Both were offered to developers as 99-year leases.
With the completion of the second development, Dean Kowalski said, the church will receive total revenue of about $5.5 million a year from the leases — about $2.5 million from the AvalonBay project, and about $3 million from the Brodsky project.
Handel Architects initially designed the building while working with a different developer. When that developer pulled out during the 2008 financial crisis, the firm’s president, Gary E. Handel, took the plans to the Brodsky Organization. He said his objective was to design a distinctive contemporary building inspired by the cathedral’s architecture, while preserving key views from the surrounding streets. “We tried to figure out how to make a new building with a vocabulary that wouldn’t copy the cathedral, but be in sympathy with it,” Mr. Handel said.
The design is based on two towers connected by an underground passage that allows for a new staircase and plaza midblock at the cathedral’s north transept, which is being renovated after a fire in 2001. The western edge of the building steps back from Amsterdam Avenue as it approaches the cathedral, to open up sightlines.
The facade rises with concrete columns that angle back and forth to give the structure a saw-toothed profile, a detail that Mr. Handel said was inspired by the cathedral’s flying buttresses. Inside, some units have views overMorningside Park, while others have close views of the cathedral. Amenities include a shared roof terrace with outdoor screening area, a fitness center, a ground-level terrace with barbecues, and a gallery with rotating art exhibitions.
Market-rate apartments will begin at about $2,400 a month for a 400-square-foot studio, and run up to a starting price of about $4,720 for an 1,100-square-foot two-bedroom. Eighty-seven of the apartments are affordable units, which will range from about $867 a month for a studio to about $1,123 for a two-bedroom.