Another major development on West 66th?

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Silverstein Properties will reportedly acquire ABC’s UWS headquarters


  • ABC’s West 66th Street headquarters will be sold to Silverstein Properties in a billion-dollar-plus land deal, according to multiple reports. Photo: Michael Garofalo

“I don’t know what’s happening to our Upper West Side. If it’s another Midtown, 57th Street skyscraper, the community will do whatever we can to stop it.”

Olive Freud, president of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development

The block of West 66th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue became a focal point for Upper West Side real estate observers last year, when Extell Development unveiled plans for a 775-foot residential tower on the block’s south side that would be the tallest building in Manhattan north of Midtown. Now, a property deal across the street from the Extell site could be an early indicator of a second significant project on the block, this one at the longtime home of the American Broadcasting Company.

Silverstein Properties, perhaps best known for developing the new World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan, is in contract to acquire ABC’s West 66th Street headquarters, according to multiple reports. The sale was first reported by the Commercial Observer. Silverstein will reportedly pay more than $1 billion in the transaction.

ABC’s campus includes several buildings on the block, including its 22-story corporate headquarters at 77 West 66th Street and the ABC News studios at neighboring 47 West 66th Street, also known as the Barbara Walters Building, as well as the studios of local affiliate WABC at 149 Columbus Avenue. It is unclear which of the ABC buildings will be included in the sale, though reports indicate the deal will likely include both 77 West 66th Street and 47 West 66th Street.

A spokesman for Silverstein declined to comment on the reported deal, and the company’s plans for the site remain unclear. Officials with Disney, ABC’s parent company, did not respond to requests for comment.

Some ABC-owned lots on the block fall within the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District and would be protected from demolition or major alterations. Neither 77 West 66th Street nor 47 West 66th Street fall within the historic district.

Sean Khorsandi, executive director of the land use and preservation nonprofit Landmark West!, said that every ABC lot on the block except for 77 West 66th Street has remaining air rights that could be transferred to contiguous properties on the block through zoning lot mergers. Khorsandi said it is possible that one or more ABC buildings could be torn down to make way for new development.

“The funny thing is, nobody would have thought five years ago that the ABC headquarters was a tear-down,” Khorsandi said. “But when we see things like 273 Park Avenue, the former Union Carbide headquarters that’s now JP Morgan Chase headquarters, as a tear-down that’s going to be rebuilt several hundred feet taller, it’s completely plausible that something like this would come down. It’s ironic, because it could completely be reused and transferred to residential.”

Development at the ABC site could conceivably overlap with construction on the Extell project on the opposite side of West 66th Street. “If a developer on one side of the street is doing something at the same time a developer across the street is doing something, the city’s not going to say to wait until one is finished,” Khorsandi said.

There are no contextual zoning height restrictions on the block, raising the possibility that the ABC lots could be the site of another sizable project in the neighborhood, in addition to the proposed Extell building at 50 West 66th Street and a planned 668-foot condo tower a few blocks away at 200 Amsterdam Avenue, which is the subject of a pending zoning appeal filed by the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, a local group that opposes the project.

“I don’t know what’s happening to our Upper West Side,” said Olive Freud, the president of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development. “If it’s another Midtown, 57th Street skyscraper, the community will do whatever we can to stop it.”

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