Children’s Museum Plans to Move Into Historic Church Building on Central Park West

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan has outgrown its home at 212 West 83rd Street, and it’s now making a bold move, relocating to a former church on 96th Street and Central Park West. Property records filed with the city on Tuesday showed that the museum has purchased the building for $45 million, according to The Real Deal.

In a statement to The Real Deal, the museum’s executive director, Andrew Ackerman, said the museum was at capacity at its 83rd Street location and had been actively looking for a new one.

“We look forward to discussing our vision with the community in more detail in the coming weeks, as we begin the formal planning and design process to reactivate the building into a world-class children’s museum for families to visit, explore, and feel part of our great city,” he said, suggesting that the new facility the museum is planning will preserve elements of the existing church.

The church, once the home of the the First Church of Christ, Scientist, was slated to be turned into condos. The developers even received approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to start work. But the Board of Standards and Appeals, a city board that hears zoning appeals, rejected the plan in 2016.

The Children’s Museum had been negotiating to move to a space on the Lower East Side, but that fell apart, setting the stage for the new plans. The museum may still have to deal with some of the same hurdles that the developers faced. A letter from the Children’s Museum to members says they expect the new building to be ready by 2021. “The new building will allow CMOM to more than double its size!  It also keeps us on the Upper West Side, is easily accessible by public transportation, and saves an architectural gem for joyous public use.”

The church, built in 1903, has already been gutted. It will invariably need considerable renovations to house a children’s museum.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 37 comments | permalink
    1. Bruce Bernstein says:

      hurrah!!! an appropriate public use… instead of more “luxury condos.”

      • MJ says:

        I bet the old Children’s Museum will become a condo. Why not have two locations?

        • Woody says:

          I’m trying really hard to comprehend how one would think such an idea makes sense and is viable. Opening and maintaining a museum is not a trivial process.

    2. A. Ford says:

      What an utter waste of space.

      Why not make a homeless shelter out of it?

      Or “affordable housing”?

      • A.Ford what?! says:

        “Utter waste of space,” said no one ever if they have kids.

      • Rob G. says:

        Hahaha, A. Ford, when you are able to shell out $45 mil for a building, let’s see how quickly YOU turn it into homeles shelter. You’re right though that housing should be affordable to anyone that can afford it.

      • Jim says:

        Sure, let’s try to build a homeless shelter or affordable housing. Then the usual cranks can protest how it will ruin “their” neighborhood.

    3. Zeus says:

      Better the museum than a condo, but still, 45 million
      big ones, nice going.

      • Woody says:

        You won’t be singing praises for long when the W 83rd St site is developed as condos. Where else do you think the CMOM will get the funds from to purchase the church and still be left with a substantial amount of cash?

    4. Christine E says:

      So glad the museum is staying the neighborhood!

    5. Paul RL says:

      What an awesome Christmas & Hanukkah present for the neighborhood! Great use for the building and a good move for CMOM. Let’s hope the LPC and the BOE doesn’t screw this one up.

    6. John says:

      Would have made a wonderful Homeless shelter

      • UWS_lifer says:

        Oh please! The homeless need to live on Central Park West now? Why not 5th Avenue?

        Just move’em into Gracie Mansion for God’s sake. DeBlasio probably wouldn’t even mind.

      • Rob G. says:

        It sure would have, as would have the Museum of Natural History, the New York Historical Society, and the American Folk Art Museum. Thanks for your suggestion – get working on it! And just in case you didn’t notice, there’s there is already an overabundance of homeless shelters around the neighborhood for you and your kids to enjoy if those don’t work out.

      • Woody says:

        People are very generous with other people’s money.

    7. wombatNYC says:

      very cool use of the space . Keeps the museum on the UWS and will be an interesting re-imagination of the building . Would be curious to know where the Museum is getting $45Mill to pay for the building ?

    8. Cyn Icke says:

      A Children’s Museum??😱

      Just imagine the displays in this equality/inequality-obsessed era:

      1. Hall of The One-Percenters’ Children (Buffy, Muffy, LaShawn, etc.);

      2. Hall of The Ninety-Nine-Percenters’ Children (Dalton, Bianca, Hector, etc.);

      3) Hall of Well-Adjusted Children;

      4) Hall of Annoying Children;

      5) Hall of Future “Winners” & Future “Losers”.

      et-ceterah, et-ceterah, et-ceterahhhh!!!

      • Comedy Crit Icke says:

        Don’t know what this poor attempt at humor has to do with re-purposing a current building. There already is a museum where your ideas could have been realized.

      • Dave says:

        For Cyn Icke, I propose a Museum of Internet Trolls.

        But seriously, a museum for children is not a new idea. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum has been in existence since 1899 (yes, that it is not a typo, it says 1899).

    9. Cato says:

      A wonderful development (pun unavoidable). Excellent use of the structure for a positive public benefit — *and* it keeps a great family resource on the Upper West Side.

      It’s really warming to see that nice things can still happen in this neighborhood. Congratulations, kudos and thanks to all involved.

    10. Only time will tell if owning will be better than renting.

    11. Wendy says:

      Remember when there seemed to be a rough sleeper on those Church steps, near the avenue ? Have many future possible comments @ Christian Science group. Protect “Planned Parenthood.”

    12. EricaC says:

      That seems like an excellent solution to two problems. I hope this will be approved promptly, and without unnecessary delay and expense.

    13. Juan says:

      What is the plan for their existing space on West 83rd? That is prime real estate. What is it zoned for? How high can they build?

    14. Michelle says:

      This is fantastic. CMOM belongs on the Upper West Side and I’m so glad it’s staying – in wintertime there just aren’t that many places you can take a toddler to run around and be noisy – CMOM was a godsend when my son was younger. I’m hoping the high ceilings let them create a better play space along with exhibit space – if you’ve ever been to the City Museum in St. Louis and seen what’s possible, you know what a great kids’ experience a huge space can lead to, and would be a real draw for the whole city.

    15. GM says:

      What a relief to the congestion on 83rd Street! The Synagogue, the US Post Office, the NYC Fire Department, Hertz, Enterprise, Budget, the Protestant Church, Cafe Lalo…this is a gift to all the hardworking souls who live here…thank you CMOM for moving! Can’t wait, it won’t come soon enough.

    16. Jean says:

      A wonderful idea.

    17. Diane says:

      That’s excellent! a very fine use for this building. Hope Landmarks doesn’t give them a lot of trouble. Very cool.

    18. UWSsurfer says:

      Nurturing the imagination and creativity of children is
      always a good investment!

    19. Iiss says:

      But will they start actually cleaning it when they move??!
      Filthiest place ever. Majority of people I know (myself included) would never take their kids there.
      It’s too bad they aren’t able to properly manage it.

    20. Joey says:

      What’s remarkable about this turn of events is that the Board of Standards and Appeals ruled against a developer. How many times has that happened?

      • Ground Control says:

        It happened because of an enormous effort by members of the community spearheaded by Landmark West and the CPW Neighbors Association who fought for the preservation of what was a designated landmark for a respectful and proper alteration and use. The application for zoning variances based on “hardship” was a hollow argument based on numerous misrepresentations by the developers. They couldn’t even convince the developer-friendly BSA. But it was the pressure brought by the community including local pols, museum curators, scholars, citizens and their lawyer to make possible the wonderful result of the Children’s Museum’s new ownership. Bravo to those community activists!

    21. We’re delighted at the prospect of having the CMOM as our neighbor. Welcome!!