Landmarks approves plan to make old Wash. Sq. church into condos

By Albert Amateau

The plan to convert the interior of the Washington Square United Methodist Church, built 145 years ago, into a complex of eight loft-style apartments received approval on Tues., Sept. 13, from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The project preserves the front facade and some of the rest of the exterior of the church at 135 W. Fourth St., but will involve changing the rear wall and taking off 21 feet of the roof at the rear of the church to provide an open terrace for one of the apartments.

Because the church is in the Greenwich Village Historic District, demolition was prohibited and the changes had to be approved by L.P.C.

Mick Walsdorf, a principal in Flank, which bought the church from the congregation in the beginning of the year, said on Sept.13 that he was very pleased by the L.P.C. approval. “We still have to get permits and file a condominium plan but we hope to start construction before the end of the year,” he said.

The Community Board 2 Landmarks Committee gave the project its approval the previous week.

The plan preserves the church exterior visible from the street but provides a secondary wheelchair accessible entrance on West Fourth Street and includes the addition of a low wrought-iron fence along the West Fourth Street side.

The rear wall and side of the church, however, will be altered to bring light and air into the eight condo apartments on three floors.

Melissa Baldock, research director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, told L.P.C. on Sept. 13 that the society was pleased that the project treats the front facade “with the respect it deserves.” But she said the society was concerned about the removal of 21 feet of the roof at the rear. The society also had a problem with the window arrangements on the new rear wall of the church.

The parsonage next door to the church is not part of the Flank property and is on the market.

On Nov. 7 last year, the Methodist congregation attended the last Sunday worship at the church and marched to their new house of worship, Trinity Chapel, the former New York University Catholic Center on Washington Square South. The Methodist congregation was able to rent the chapel because the Catholic Center merged last year with St. Joseph’s Church on Sixth Avenue at Waverly Place and now shares the space with St. Joseph’s.

Washington Square Methodist Church had been the home over the past 40 years of social action groups ranging from Black Panthers to Metro Community Church. Gay Men’s Health Crisis, various dance, theater and music groups and community housing-development organizations found welcome homes in the building.