HPD’s conversion of vacant school approved

Former school at 217 W. 147th Street in Harlem. Photo: Kevin E. Schultz

HPD argued that variance would avoid demolition of 1905 school building. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development, owner of 217 West 147th Street, a 29,975-square-foot lot in Harlem, proposed to convert a vacant school into a 56-unit residential building with a community facility space in the cellar. The school, constructed in 1905 and declared obsolete by the Board of Education in 1978, is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.

Conversion of the obsolete building necessitated variances for open space, setback, rear yard, base and building height, and floor area to allow an additional 16,486 square feet of residential space. In support of its application, HPD argued that the building was obsolete as a school because it failed to meet seismic code requirements, contained asbestos, and had extensive water damage and structural problems as well as outdated mechanical and electrical systems. HPD also argued that the variances should be granted because demolition of the historically significant building would be wasteful.

HPD submitted an analysis of an as-of-right residential use and a 46-unit residential conversion, but concluded that neither alternative would realize a reasonable rate of return.

In granting the variance, BSA determined that a reasonable rate of return could not be obtained with as-of-right use due to the seismic code and structural deficiencies. BSA noted that, although it did not view demolition of an architecturally significant building as an actual hardship, it did acknowledge the significant costs associated with demolition. BSA stated that the density may be increased up to 75 units on the condition that the building envelope and residential FAR remain unchanged.

HPD designated L & M Equity Participants Ltd. and Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement as developers of the site. HPD will dispose of the site through a ULURP action, and no building permits will be issued until the Planning Commission approves the disposition.

BSA: 217 West 147th Street (135-05-BZ) (Judith M. Gallent, for HPD). CITYADMIN

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.