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Carter's View

The Extell Development Group has acquired about 140,000-square feet of unused air rights from the Art Students League at 215 West 57th Street.

Ira Goldberg, executive director of the league, told today that the proceeds from the sale will be used to support its programs. He said he was "not at liberty" to say what the purchase price was of the air-rights.

Criag Evans and Nicola Heryet, both senior managing directors of Colliers ABR, represented the league in the transaction. Mr. Evans told today that "the negotiations required sensitivity to the unique light and air requirements of the Art Students League," adding that "we were happy to negotiate a sale that addressed the concerns of the League while allowing Extell to move forward with the development in the area."

Extell controls the former Hard Rock building just to the west of the League and property extending through the block to 58th Street. The Hard Rock Caf?as founded in London in 1971 and was located in the base of the 12-story building at 225 West 57th Street where its entrance canopy was a late 1950's black Cadillac converting with rotating wheels. Hard Rock recently relocated to the former Paramount Theater space at 1501 Broadway.

The league's building is an individually designated official city landmark rich in the city's cultural and artistic history.

It was completed in 1892 and designed by Henry Jane Hardenbergh, who would become the architect a few years later of the nearby Plaza Hotel.

In their great book, "New York 1900, Metropolitan Architecture and Urbanism 1890-1915" (Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1983), Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and John Massengale provided the following commentary about the building:

"The tendency in the Composite Era to monumentalize individual institutions extended even to the more modest fine art, historical and learned societies which had hitherto been content to carry on their proceedings in unassuming quarters that were frequently built for other purposes. In 1890, at the dawn of the Composite Era, the American Fine Arts Society held a competition for a new building?Atypically, the society was newly founded (1899) and building its first headquarters. Typically, however, its construction was made possible by a process of consolidation whereby a number of other organizations, including the Architectural League of New York (founded in 1881) and the Art Students League (founded 1875) agreed to share its galleries, studios and classrooms. During the Composite Era, the Fine Arts Society became the scene of virtually every important exhibition of art and architecture held in the city. The annual exhibitions of the Architectural League held there were major events for the profession and the public at large?.The entries for the Fine Arts Society competition reflected the transitional state of American architecture in 1890. The winning scheme by Henry J. Hardenbergh, in association with John C. Jacobson and Walter C. Hunting, managed to bride the two eras. Completed in 1892, it was a stately French Renaissance palace with three central panels dedicated to art, architecture and sculpture. The glazed and densely ornamented panels contrasted with largely blank end bays visually buttressing the facade, while a red-tile gable roof above the projecting cornice paralleled the facade and furthered its aura of imposing domesticity."

The air-rights will likely enable Extell to erect a very tall, mid-block, condominium tower on the site of the former Hard Rock building.

Additional Info About the Building

Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
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