Knickerbocker Hotel gets OK to revert to former use

Knickerbocker Hotel

BSA approval needed before converting landmarked Times Square office building to a hotel. In September 2010, Highgate Holdings LLP sought an alteration permit to convert the former Knickerbocker Hotel at 1466 Broadway in Times Square to a 395-room hotel. The Knickerbocker Hotel, originally owned by John Jacob Astor IV, operated from 1906 until the prohibition era, when it was converted to office space. In 1979, BSA approved a plan to convert the Knickerbocker into a residential building, but that conversion never took place. Landmarks designated the building as an individual landmark in 1988. The site includes a fifteen-story building with frontages along West 42nd Street and Broadway and an incorporated eight-story building that fronts 41st Street and served as the original hotel’s service entrance.

Highgate planned to alter the Knickerbocker’s facades and interior, and demolish and reconstruct the rear portion of the fifteen-story building to create a larger rear court and provide light and air to the hotel rooms with rear-facing windows. Buildings denied Highgate’s permit because the plans violated the multiple dwelling law’s minimum inner-court regulations for transient hotels. Highgate appealed to BSA seeking a variance from the innercourt requirements.

At BSA, Highgate claimed that creating a fully compliant rear court would require demolishing a larger portion of the main building and a significant amount of structural work to support each floor. A complying hotel would provide 36 fewer rooms, and Highgate submitted documents indicating that the extra construction costs and resulting smaller hotel would generate substantially less revenue. Highgate also submitted a certificate of appropriateness issued by Landmarks in December 2010 approving the proposed exterior alterations.

BSA granted the appeal, finding that a variance from the Multiple Dwelling Law’s regulations was appropriate because Highgate demonstrated that it would be impractical to build a compliant hotel.

BSA: 1466 Broadway, Manhattan (216-10-A) (Feb. 1, 2011) (Kramer Levin, for Highgate).

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