Hell’s Kitchen’s revolving real estate door turns again, as the neighborhood prepares for two new housing developments being built in the West 50s. 

Centro Maria residence
The Centro Maria just before it was demolished. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Already in the process of being demolished, the 113-year-old Centro Maria building at 539 W54th Street (between 10/11th Ave) — formerly the Catholic St. Ambrose’s parish and most recently home to one of Manhattan’s last remaining women’s residences — is set to become a 21-floor, 71 unit condominium building. According to The Real Deal, the Excel Development Group filed plans to build a 104,000 square foot structure at the site of the former church residence, which was known for providing affordable housing for as little as $215 a week to students, interns and frequently, recovering domestic violence survivors for 56 years before its closure in 2021, reported by Patch

The building, owned by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese, was purchased by Excel for $25 million in 2022 — a sale that some former Centro Maria residents decried as a strategy to raise funds for the Catholic Church’s prolific sexual abuse lawsuit legal fees as a result of the Child Victims Act of 2019. Former Centro Maria resident Natasha Lewis, an attorney and women’s rights organizer who lived in the home during a 2010 UN internship, told THE CITY: “To me, the symbolism of closing down a place that is for women and girls in need, that is run by women who’ve dedicated their lives to helping other women and girls, in order to pay the legal fees of men who have abused children, and abused women, is despicable.” Although Hell’s Kitchen’s Centro Maria location could not be saved, the residence has since popped up in the Spuyten Duyvil neighborhood of Bronx, still marketed as student and intern-friendly housing. W42ST has reached out to the Archdiocese for further comment on the sale and will update this article if we hear back. 

Just two blocks south of Centro Maria, another large-scale condominium is in the works at 354 W52nd Street (between 8/9th Ave). Developers Cadence Property Group — the firm behind Hell’s Kitchen’s Post-Office-turned-luxury apartment complex The Sorting House and the Turnstyle Underground Market at Columbus Circle — purchased the lot for $15.5 million, according to Crain’s New York Business. The firm is also in negotiations to acquire the adjacent lot at 352 W52nd Street as part of the 32-unit, $60 million project. The building, which is expected to be completed in 2025, will be composed of one-, two- and three-bedroom units between 950 and 3,000 square feet and will be priced from $1.4 million, Cadence president Howard Glatzer told Crain’s

Controversy has surrounded this area since a building at 350 W52nd St was allowed to deteriorate until it collapsed in May 2019 — causing the temporary closure of Therapy Bar at 348 W52nd St and the permanent closure of Stile’s Farmers Market that occupied the vacant plot at 354 W52nd St. At the time, then Council Member Corey Johnson said: “Therapy Bar and Stile’s Farmers Market in Hell’s Kitchen were issued vacate orders by the NYC Department of Buildings because of structural instability of the neighboring building at 350 W52nd Street. According to the DOB, its structural engineers have determined that the danger 350 W52nd Street presents to the adjoining properties is imminent. It is shameful that the owner of 350 W52nd Street has allowed that building to deteriorate over the course of many years.”

350 W52nd St Demolition 2019
The scene in May 2019 when 350 W52nd St was deemed unsafe and demolished. Photos Phil O’Brien

Hell’s Kitchen has experienced a dearth of affordable housing in recent years, with advocates calling for additional construction and fewer zoning barriers to completing new buildings. In October, Manhattan Community Board 4 (MCB4) released an expansive housing proposal, promising over 14,000 new affordable housing units in the neighborhood if implemented by city government. W42ST reached out to the team at Cadence to inquire whether any of the W52nd Street project’s units would be reserved for affordable housing and will update if we hear back. A call to the number listed for the Excel Property Group was not answered.

Until construction begins at 354 W52nd Street, it will still remain an active parking lot — one that until recently was run by neighborhood icon Winston Churchill Martinez. Winston recently retired after 51 years of attending to the West Side lot. Park a car in honor of Winston before the team breaks ground! 

Winston Churchill Martinez at the W52nd Street parking lot.
Winston Churchill Martinez at the W52nd Street parking lot. Photo supplied & Phil O’Brien

Join the Conversation


  1. So a 113-year old building that was used as affordable housing for the past 56 years was demolished to build a 21-story luxury condo building with just 71 units…. Then a surface parking lot is snatched up to build yet MORE luxury condos… Please tell me how this is supposed to help the neighborhood? Rents will surely go up surrounding these new buildings as small landlords use them to justify the increases. If this is concerning to you, I encourage you to attend CB4’s 12 FAR working group meeting today at 4pm to voice your opinion on allowing developers to build even taller buildings, under the guise that it will spur more affordable housing production. Let this article serve as an example that the only thing developers want to build here is luxury apartments. Register for the Zoom here: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwkdOmtqDssE9IjCsNYqnwp0hBCeBY4xwae#/registration

  2. Thank you, Catie Savage, for the CB4 Zoom link. I will attend!
    Developers/realtors are sucking the life out of NYC for obscene profits. Families cannot afford to stay. Artists, teachers, small mom & pop stores cannot pay their rising rent anymore. If I didn’t have a rent stabilized apt, I couldn’t afford to stay here. I’m 77 years of age, and watching this city sell itself out.

  3. One of the reasons I moved to Hell’s Kitchen was because of the low scale 7 story height max on the side streets. The special district. I agree building ever taller buildings only brings down “luxury” prices. So a condo costs 3 mil instead of 3.5 mil… doesn’t help

    Whets lost on so many is bulk and height affect quality of life. What makes the West Village and Hell’s Kitchen amazing is the light, air, the cozy side streets. I’m so tired of politicians saving Park Slope, but insisting Hell’s Kitchen and Soho must build taller. Brooklyn isn’t the only borough with neighborhoods. Let’s save Manhattans hoods too!

  4. I am brought to tears by this. I lived in HK for 25+ years,helping make it what it is today, protecting the “special district” from such greed. I guess the new generation does not really care about history. I am so saddened by this. Winston, a dear friend, I wish you all the best in retirement. Now, go and dance your ass off! xo

    1. I am of the younger generation and I am very much AGAINST over development of our community, especially the Clinton Special District. Many young people unfortunately do not understand how this will negatively impact them until it is too late. None of these units will be affordable – even “affordable housing” isn’t affordable unless you are under 60% AMI or have some sort of housing voucher. Please attend the CB4 meeting today at 4pm if possible. Register here https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwkdOmtqDssE9IjCsNYqnwp0hBCeBY4xwae#/registration

  5. You can attend as many meetings as you want. Things are decided beforehand. I sent a 1940 pic of this very church school to an elected official over 3 years ago requesting support to maintain the original facade. “Oh yeah sure sure I’ll look into it.” 3 years I’ve been enquirinf and the powers that be let it happen. Same thing with the old public library on 40th street. That was 7 years I had been requesting assist center to save THAT historic building. The CB had no qualms and let them demolish it. And now I’m working to save the “NY kindergarten Assoc on 42nd st that is currently being used by the strategic response group precinct. Last I heard they were directed to move in spring summer. Projects I tried
    To save are many so I don’t ask for support any more because they do what they want. We should start a HK historic committee group though there’s not much left to save. I should know. I’m 5th generation in HK. And my grandmother and great aunts attendees at Ambrose school im that very building that is currently being demolished.

    1. So sad to wipe out history in America. We’re still young and stupid, and may not last much longer.😢

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