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The Children’s Museum Acquires Vacant UWS Church for $45M

CMOM Will Base Permanent Home at the Landmark and Move in 2021
February 1, 2018
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) has closed on its new permanent home, purchasing 361 Central Park West (1 W. 96th St.) in New York City for $45 million, or about $1,500 per square foot, from North Development Group.

Law firm Kleinberg Kaplan advised the museum in its acquisition of the property, a 30,000-square-foot landmarked church originally built in 1900 on one-third of an acre in Manhattan's Upper West Side.

CMOM says it will open the doors to its new location in 2021. Until then, it remains in its leased space at 212 W. 83rd St., which is owned by Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church.

"The repurposed building will offer approximately three times the exhibit space of the existing Children’s Museum. We currently serve hundreds of thousands of families from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. With the additional space, we’ll be able to reach even more. We’re pleased to have acquired this free-standing building. It is a building that proclaims, 'You are in New York!'," says Matthew Messinger, co-chair on the board of directors at CMOM and CEO of Trinity Place Holdings Inc.

Messinger tells CoStar News the property’s proximity to Central Park is a tremendous added benefit, as the institution is committed to early childhood health.

Architects Carrere & Hastings built 361 Central Park West, known as the First Church of Christ, in Beaux-Arts style. First, the property needs a little TLC.

"We worked with seller’s counsel to negotiate the purchase and sales agreement and performed diligence relative to title and survey matters. There were some minor issues with the building - it has not been occupied for a few years, some facets of the building did not receive the love and attention they would have if in use," Christopher Terry, partner in the real estate practice at Kleinberg Kaplan, tells CoStar News. The Church intends on preserving the building’s exterior.

The previous ownership group had sought a zoning variance on the unoccupied Church which was denied, according to Terry. CMOM is not seeking a variance and will utilize the property in its original community use.

"We have not finalized an engagement with an architect yet. Once we’ve completed the design process, we’ll be able to share more details on the interior renovations and structural elements. Until then, we know that some of the interior ceiling heights are approximately 60 feet high. We expect to use that volume of space, possibly adding levels and floors inside. We also plan to include an homage to the building’s earlier uses. We know that in addition to exhibition space, we would like to feature dedicated performance areas, galleries, studio work spaces and, of course, the new museum will offer visitor amenities targeted to the needs of families. These will include quiet spaces for nursing, stroller storage, and even a café," Messinger explains.

North Development Group acquired the church in April 2014 for $26 million, or about $867 per square foot, from Crenshaw Christian Center East, a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Crenshaw Christian Center, according to CoStar data.
See CoStar COMPS #3066982.

Working on behalf of CMOM was a Kleinberg Kaplan team including Terry, fellow real estate practice partner Ross Yustein, managing partner of the real estate practice Andrew Chonoles and associate Michael Scharpf.

Brokerage firm Denham Wolf was involved in buyer-side negotiations.

Please see CoStar COMPS #4095902 for additional information on this transaction.

Diana Bell, New York City Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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