Church wants Equity Residential development built before landmark designation

Talks to landmark the perpetually unfinished Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights have renewed for a fourth time in more than 40 years as Equity Residential lays plans for a 15-story apartment building on the church’s campus, the Wall Street Journal reported. Once again, preservationists and activists want the building and its surrounding campus — called “the close” — landmarked before Equity begins work on its development. The Landmarks Preservation Commission first considered designating the structure and its surrounding grounds shortly after its creation in 1966 and again in 1979. But both times it decided to hold off until the building, which was first started in 1893 but has never been “finished,” was complete.

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In 2003, the commission decided to landmark the building and its campus with the exception of the Equity plot and another parcel where AvalonBay Communities completed a 20-story apartment building in 2008. City Council, which wanted the entire grounds landmarked, repeatedly vetoed the LPC’s recommendation at the time. But the revenue generated by the projects is crucial to funding church operations, including the completion of its own structure an executive said. As a result, much to the dismay of the preservationists, the church wants the designation only after the Equity Residential building is complete. [WSJ]