Harlem church seeks state approval for redevelopment plans

Broadway Spanish Baptist Church, developer aim for mixed-use at 7 Hamilton Place

A photo illustration of the Broadway Spanish Baptist Church (Google Maps, Getty Images)
A photo illustration of the Broadway Spanish Baptist Church (Google Maps, Getty Images)

A Harlem church standing on unsteady financial ground is asking the state to greenlight redevelopment plans that would allow the 50-year-old house of worship to remain open alongside more than five-dozen new residential units.

The Broadway Spanish Baptist Church and its developer partner Kendy Construction filed an application with New York Supreme Court on Wednesday seeking approval for a joint venture that would permit the church’s redevelopment at 7 Hamilton Place to proceed.

The church and developer have asked the court to transfer ownership of the property to a holding company called Broadway Spanish Baptist Church Inc., a joint venture that was created last November to facilitate the financing for the proposed project.

Kendy Construction and the house of worship reached an agreement last year to turn the current church into an 11-story, mixed-use building with commercial units, offices and church space on the first two floors and 66 residential units on the other floors. The church would occupy the first two floors and own seven residential units on the building’s third floor. The remaining 59 units would be owned by the developer.

The project was expected to cost $23 million, according to the agreement. However, an updated figure in the court documents filed this week pegs the project at $16.1 million, which the joint venture described as “beyond the financial means of the Church by itself.”

Kendy has the project financing in hand and will cover all expenses that pertain to the church’s redevelopment, according to the court filing. The developer secured a $32 million construction loan on a three-year term in April from Urban Bay Housing Fund, records show. Ownership of the property will not officially pass to the joint venture until all financial obligations are met.

The property at 7 Hamilton Place was valued at $7 million in last November’s agreement. However, the building’s value is now estimated to be $4.5 million, according to the court documents filed this week. Attorneys representing the joint venture said that the church is “in a dilapidated condition and requires substantial repairs.”

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“Regrettably, the Church does not have the funds to make such repairs,” the attorneys wrote.

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The Broadway Spanish Baptist Church ran about a $60,000 deficit last year, with more than $292,000 in expenses compared to roughly $231,000 received in donations, according to court documents. The church currently owes about $283,000 in debt, the vast majority being taxes, records show.

The church’s “substantial debts and liabilities” will be paid upon approval of the redevelopment project, the joint venture’s legal team said. Funding received through the joint venture and proceeds from the residential units will be used “for the benefit of the church.”

Kendy would be required to relocate the church within a ten-block radius while construction is ongoing. The developer would also have to pay the church’s rent of up to $10,000 per month, contribute up to $350,000 for moving and renovation expenses and make any necessary repairs at the church’s temporary location.

Neither the Broadway Spanish Baptist Church nor Kendy Construction responded when reached for comment. It’s unclear if the project would be as-of-right or require a rezoning or special permit.

Built in 1950, the property was purchased by the church in 1970, city records show. The building spans 15,700 square feet, with six commercial units across two floors.