American Broadcasting Company Sells UWS Campus to Developer Silverstein Properties
The $1.2 billion purchase closed the week of July 9, 2018 per the COMMERCIAL OBSERVER
UPDATE! Silverstein flips WEST END AVENUE CAMPUS to TACONIC INVESTMENT PARTNERS per COMMERCIAL OBSERVER article, the sale closed August 19, 2019.
Says Larry Silverstein: “I knew it was a magnificent piece of real estate that was worth buying for future development. [ABC] will stay in possession of the main campus—at 66th to 67th Streets on Columbus Avenue—for five years. At the end of those five years they will vacate and we can demolish the real estate and build a residential property. They have additional buildings that we’re also getting on West End Avenue at 65th to 67th Streets. The West End Avenue properties are different from the campus, and that real estate they will probably stay in possession of for three years. There we will develop in 2020 to 2021 and by 2024 we’ll have the residential buildings complete. The redevelopment of the main campus will take longer. We’re thinking multiple towers.”
Background: On April 6th, 2018, after 70 years in television, and nearly 40 headquartered on the Upper West Side, the COMMERCIAL OBSERVER and THE REAL DEAL reported that as part of the ABC-21st Century Fox merger, ABC parent company, the Walt Disney Company, solicited bids and Silverstein Properties is in contract to acquire their UWS campus. The deal, reportedly in excess of $1 Billion, will leave many building sites in play on the Upper West Side. On April 9th, 2018 GLOBE STREET reported that the sale includes 77 W. 66th Street and 47 W. 66th Street (see map and details below). According to the New York Post, their intent appears to be to relocate to 4 Hudson Square. Read more in THE NEW YORK TIMES.
The sale includes the buildings on the West 66th-West 67th Street blocks, but leaves out the First Battery Armory “ESPN” building on the south side of West 66th Street.
History: The American Broadcasting Company began as “NBC Blue”–an experimental subset of “NBC Red”–and went independent as a radio station in 1943 by government order. ABC began television productions in 1948, and perennially ranked third out of the “Big Three” networks behind both Columbia Broadcasting System’s CBS and the National Broadcast Corporation’s NBC. In 1966, ABC set its headquarters at 1330 Avenue of the Americas, between 53rd and 54th Streets in an Emery Roth and Sons building. After finally ascending to the top spot in the Nielsen Prime Time Rankings in 1976-77, ABC executives began plans to develop an Upper West Side campus. ABC finally consolidated its headquarters on the UWS in 1989 with the opening of the 22-story L-shaped building at 77 West 66th Street. Read ABC’s own take on the evolution of their UWS footprint from their November 1986 employee newsletter, CAPITAL CITIES/ABC INK.
COLUMBUS AVENUE CAMPUS
7 West 66th Street, 24 West 67th Street, and 30 West 67th Street, built as ABC’s “Broadcasting, Operations & Engineering Building”. 30 West 67th Street has realized its full FAR potential and cannot develop further with a zoning lot merger or easement.
Buildings within Historic Districts may be altered under certain circumstances within the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Rules. For example, often times a rooftop or rear yard addition is allowed, but with restrictions. Demolitions within historic districts are very rare. Demolition of Individual Landmarks that have not been structurally compromised are nearly unheard of. Thus, the aforementioned addresses should be protected under the law.
The buildings owned by ABC which do not fall within the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District and are not individual landmarks are:
- 47 West 66th Street, Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, 1985 (television studios aka the Barbara Walters Building); 14 stories.
- 77 West 66th Street, Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, 1986-1989 (ABC Inc. Headquarters); 22 stories. This building has realized its full FAR potential and cannot develop further without a zoning lot merger or easement.
- 147 Columbus Avenue (NE Corner at W. 66th), Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, 1990-1992 (ABC Building); 10 stories.
- 149-155 Columbus Avenue (SE Corner at W. 67th), Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, 1981 (WABC Channel 7 Building aka 7 Lincoln Square); 6 stories.
Thus far, no plans have been filed. In addition to the ABC corporate headquarters, local affiliate WABC7 is onsite with all of its operations and Eyewitness News Broadcasts. World News with David Muir, LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, The View and some soap operas are also filmed on this block. Relocating these productions will take time and planning. Variety reports that ABC may be in a lease-back scenario for up to five years.
This block falls within the C4-7 zoning district which has an R-10 equivalent, and there are no contextual zoning height limitations which means there is potential for large-scale residential development. This varies between side streets and avenue exposure.
Skip to the bottom of the page, past the WEST END AVENUE Campus to read through our blog updates below for more history on this critical zoning matter.
WEST END AVENUE CAMPUS
Directly south of the studio buildings is a vacant lot listed as “Contiguous Development Site”. This lot was held by Tishman Speyer, but a filing on 10/17/2018 indicates that this lot has transferred to Silverstein Galaxy Property Owner. This lot is zoned C4-2F and has a potential for 165,172 square feet of development rights. As of August 2019, this has been sold to Taconic Investment Partners.
The Upper West Side has many zoning protections that apply depending on Historic District designation, Individual Landmark designation, contextual zoning and Special Purpose District. None of these apply to these properties.
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The buildings owned by ABC are:
- 121 West End Avenue, Unknown 1929; altered by Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, 1989 (Office Building); 7 stories.
- 320 West 66th Street, Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, 1989 (ABC Offices and Studios); 2 stories.
Combined, these sites have more than 588,000 square feet of available development rights. Thus far, no plans have been filed. Although ABC has a deal to lease-back its properties from Silverstein (now, Taconic) for up to five years, it is expected that the West End Avenue campus will be decanted first for re-development. Since the initial sale to Silverstein went through, the footprint has expanded. The map below outlines the areas now under Taconic Investment Partners Ownership:
This block falls within the C4-7 zoning district which has a R-10 equivalent, (along West End Avenue) as well as the C4-2F zoning district which has a R-6 equivalent, (along West 66th Street). There are no contextual zoning height limitations which means there is potential for large-scale residential development.
LANDMARK WEST! will keep this page updated with developments and additional information, as it becomes available.
Read through our blog updates below for more history on this critical zoning matter.
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