Developer behind Woolworth conversion planning Billionaires’ Row office tower

Alchemy-ABR Investment Partners is buying the Calvary Baptist Church’s 57th street building

The Calvary Baptist Church on Billionaires’ Row is trying to get out of the hotel business.

The church shares an elevator with the threadbare Salisbury Hotel on 57th Street, which it has owned and run for nearly a century. And it’s just one of many gripes the church has with its building, which sits along what’s now a prime stretch of the Manhattan street.

“The current space does not provide for the church’s needs,” Todd Williams, chairman of the church’s board of deacons, told The Real Deal.

Alchemy-ABR Investment Partners — a partnership that includes the developer best known for converting the Woolworth Building into luxury condominiums — is buying Calvary Baptist’s properties on Billionaires’ Row. But instead of going for high-priced condos, the developers are planning to build a boutique office building atop space for the church.

“When this site was originally brought to us, Billionaires’ Row was already a phenomenon, but this just didn’t click” as a condo project,” explained Brian Ray, whose ABR Partners teamed up with Ken Horn’s Alchemy Properties in 2015 to form their venture. “We started talking about what this market really needs is an office building, and it really started to make sense.”

The developers are planning to build a 230,000-square-foot building on the site at 123-141 West 57th Street, which sits right next door to Extell Development’s One57, with space for retail, office and a commercial condo for the church.

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They declined to comment on the purchase price of the property but said the all-in development cost will be around $350 million. Alchemy ABR’s majority equity partner is Cain International, the investment firm partly owned by Los Angeles Dodgers’ owner Todd Boehly’s Eldridge Industries that’s bankrolling Vladislav Doronin’s condo conversion of the Crown Building.

Eric Poretsky, Cain’s managing principal, said he has known Alchemy Partners’ Ken Horn for some years, and started looking at the 57th Street deal back in 2017.

“Something like this is really difficult to create in Midtown,” he said, explaining that the majority of the office floors will have “unique views of Central Park.”

The 26-story building will include about 180,000 square feet of office space spread across boutique floors measuring about 10,000 square feet. The developers said they’ll be targeting tenants such as family offices, private equity companies and boutique law firms.

JLL will handle leasing for the project, which is set to break ground by early 2021. Alchemy-ABR plans to close on the property early next year, pending approval of the state’s Attorney General’s office.

Alchemy’s Horn pointed to his firm’s track record of partnering with churches and other nonprofits when discussing the sensitive nature of putting together such a deal.

“The strength of the transaction is that we’re not just getting what we want,” he said. “The church is in a position where it gets to us the facility for the next 100 years.”

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