Excel plans 21-story Hell’s Kitchen apartment complex
Property housed one of Manhattan’s last women’s boarding homes
Out with the old — the very old — and in with the new: Excel Development Group filed plans Wednesday to replace a 113-year-old church building in Hell’s Kitchen with a 21-story apartment project.
The development would have 71 units across 104,000 square feet at 539 West 54th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues. A four-story parish would be demolished to make room.
Excel bought the site from the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese for $25 million in 2022.
Just before its sale, the stained-glass property was home to one of New York’s last all-women boarding homes, Centro Maria. For 56 years, the organization offered a haven for students, interns and vulnerable youths, including domestic violence survivors. It offered a dormitory-style living, recreational rooms, a chapel and hot meals cooked by nuns for just $215 per week, according to Patch.
Before that, the building, built in 1910, was home to the Roman-Catholic affiliated Church of St. Ambrose.
The property became a casualty of the church’s massive sexual abuse scandal. When the last of Centro Maria’s tenants left in 2020, the historic building was sold to help cover the cost of hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits brought through the Child Victims Act of 2019, according to The City.
Forest Hills-based Excel, led by Mikhael Heletz, has done other projects around the city. It built five “designer townhomes” along Kosciuszko Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and, across the Kosciuszko Bridge, raised a six-story, 100,000-square-foot apartment complex dubbed Vernon Tower. The Astoria project has 103 rentals along the East River.
In 2015, Excel began assembling properties in Kipps Bay, paying about $15 million for four adjacent lots along East 33rd Street. That effort was completed in December 2019, when Heletz bought a five-story apartment building at 345 East 33rd Street for $11.2 million, along with 12,000 square feet of development rights from a nearby owner at 337 East 33rd Street for $2.75 million.
There, Heletz plans a 155-unit, 123,000-square-foot tower, with 6,400 square feet of ground-floor retail.
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