Divine Design

Harlem church wants to rezone above Central Park for tower and cultural center

A 38,000-square-foot cultural space will anchor a proposed tower in Central Harlem. (Courtesy FXCollaborative)

Harlem’s La Hermosa Christian Church is proposing a major building move to save its congregation. Earlier this summer, it submitted an application to the New York City Planning Commission asking to rezone part of Central Park North to make way for a 410-foot-tall residential tower and community center run by the church. This week it unveiled further plans to integrate a fin-covered music school and cultural center into the structure, all designed by FXCollaborative

Located at 5 West 110th Street, the existing three-story building that houses the La Hermosa Christian community is in poor condition and the congregation, which has been in the area since 1960, hopes that building vertically on the church-owned land will allow the institution to secure its future permanence in the neighborhood. As the oldest Latino church on the East Coast, many residents see it as a mainstay resource in Central Harlem.

Aerial view of tower on Central Park North surrounded by trees and lake, part of the La Hermosa development

Aerial view of the total tower (Courtesy FXCollaborative)

FXCollaborative has designed a striated, 160-unit tower rising 33 stories above the corner of Central Park North that would be built on the church’s current site. It would include 50 units of affordable housing and 38,000 square feet of mixed-use space. According to 6sqft, La Hermosa aims to use the money it earns from the building’s tenants to fund its new sanctuary space, a music school, and an art school. The Manhattan School of Music has already offered to partner with the church and host free classes for local children at the site. 

The low-lying community center, as envisioned by FXCollaborative, features a curved facade (similar in concept to the studio’s Circa Central Park) made of crystal-like glass and a narrow, horizontal cutout spanning from one corner of the building to the opposite edge. If built, it would stand in stark contrast to La Hermosa’s current church building, a red- and creme-colored cement block structure that’s slated to be demolished.

Though the designs have already been released, no developer has signed on for the project yet and the City Planning Commission says it won’t vote yes on a rezoning decision until that happens. Until then, the La Hermosa community must keep waiting, but the future looks fairly bright given its ample support in the neighborhood and the fact that the church is already neighbored by other high-rise buildings. Not only that, but since Central Park South and a few streets below have been building higher and higher for the past few years, the proposed project may face less criticism than similar projects, given that it’s much smaller than any of the supertall skyscrapers ringing Central Park’s borders.

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