Silverstein buys ABC's UWS HQ

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Network to move downtown; major new development on West 66th Street likely


  • Silverstein Properties has reached a $1.15 billion deal to purchase ABC's West 66th Street headquarters. Photo: Michael Garofalo

The Walt Disney Company has agreed to sell the longtime Upper West Side headquarters of the American Broadcasting Company, a Disney subsidiary, to the development company Silverstein Properties for $1.15 billion.

ABC, which has called West 66th Street home for decades, will relocate to a new facility Disney plans to build at 4 Hudson Square in Lower Manhattan. Disney will lease back the Upper West Side buildings from Silverstein for as long as five years while its new downtown campus is built.

Silverstein will acquire several ABC buildings on the block of West 66th Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West, along with properties a few blocks away on West End Avenue. The sale does not include the Armory on West 66th Street opposite ABC's headquarters, which was recently renovated and will be retained by Disney.

Silverstein's plans for West 66th Street remain unclear, but the significant size and development potential of the former ABC lots make the block the likely site of a large-scale project in the years to come.

Some of the former ABC properties on the block between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West fall within the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District, but other buildings on the block — including 47 West 66th St., also known as the Barbara Walters Building, and 77 West 66th St., the 22-story clay-red building that serves as the broadcaster's corporate headquarters — could potentially be demolished to make way for new development.

Sean Khorsandi, the executive director of the land use and preservation nonprofit Landmark West!, said preliminary analysis of the West 66th Street site suggests that the lot size and zoning could potentially support two sizeable towers on the block.

Silverstein's acquisition and potential redevelopment of the ABC campus takes place against the backdrop of ongoing efforts by local groups and elected officials to block two planned condominium towers nearby, one at 50 West 66th St., directly opposite the ABC campus, and another at 200 Amsterdam Avenue, near 69th Street. As planned, each of the developments would be taller than any existing tower north of midtown.

Landmark West! has already received calls from neighbors concerned about what will be built at the ABC site, Khorsandi said. “This block is contiguous to a very activated and motivated set of neighbors who know their rights and are eager to speak up,” he said. “They've been watching these outsized developments nearby on 66th Street and 69th Street and they're not afraid to engage.”

“This is a famous block,” Khorsandi added. “We're hoping for architecture that respects the landscape of the block and that's cohesive with the historic district and its context.”

“We expect something to be built there,” he said. “We're not anti-development. We expect responsible development.”

In an emailed statement, Silverstein CEO Marty Burger said his company is “committed to balancing sustainable building and preserving what we love about New York.” Burger continued, “We look forward to working collaboratively with all our stakeholders, as we have always done, as we assume responsibility for Disney's properties in the heart of Manhattan's Upper West Side.”

A Disney press release on the sale stated that Silverstein “was chosen not only because of its extensive track record of successful development in Manhattan, but also because of the company's explicit, stated commitment to respectfully engage with the city and the local community.”

Disney acquired the rights to develop 4 Hudson Square from Trinity Church through a 99-year lease valued at $605 million. The site includes a full block bounded by Hudson, Varick, Van Dam and Spring Streets. Disney plans to build a state-of-the-art facility with new studios for WABC-TV, ABC News and other programs and content currently produced on the Upper West Side.

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