Zoning blues: City requires Sam Chang to demolish Midtown church to make way for hotel

Hotelier wanted to preserve the church, but DOB says the second floor violates setback rules

<em>From left: Rendering of new hotel, Sam Chang and Christ Church </em>
From left: Rendering of new hotel, Sam Chang and Christ Church

Despite the developer’s willingness to preserve a significant part of a landmarked church in Midtown, the city is requiring that most of the building be demolished to make way for a new hotel.

The city’s Department of Buildings is forcing hotel mogul Sam Chang to raze most of Christ Church at 338-344 West 36th Street due to zoning rules in the area, the New York Post reported. The second-floor of the church is setback six feet from the first, but the city’s zoning law requires that the facades of new buildings in area rise at least 80 feet above the sidewalk with no setbacks.

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Chang [TRDataCustom], head of the McSam Hotel Group, bought the church in 2014 for $50.75 million. He initially planned to demolish the structure to make way for a 500-key Marriott-branded hotel. After hearing the pleas of neighborhood groups and officials, however, Chang agreed to keep the building’s brick facade, including five tall chapel windows on the second floor.

The DOB approved plans for the preservation in October 2015 but has since reversed course. Chang is currently working on a compromise, which could include constructing a replica of the second floor and building that atop the existing first floor. [NYP]Kathryn Brenzel