New York City Opera Calls Off Plan for New Opera House in Tower

Classic Arts News   New York City Opera Calls Off Plan for New Opera House in Tower
A proposed real estate deal that would have included the construction of a new home for New York City Opera has fallen through, the company announced.

Under the plan, NYCO would have moved from the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center to a custom-built theater constructed as part of a new residential tower at 150 Amsterdam Avenue. The location, which was previously the site of the American Red Cross headquarters, is just north and west of the main Lincoln Center campus.

In a statement released with A & R Kalimian Realty, the developer of the project, a New York City Opera spokesperson said that "despite the best efforts of all parties, an agreement could not be reached on a number of legal, financial, and design issues."

NYCO had not made a public announcement about the plan, but an article in the New York Times on April 27 said that a deal was near completion. NYCO general director Paul Kellogg did not make himself available for the paper, but the article included quotes from Martin J. Oppenheimer, a vice chair of the company. His participation suggested that the company had decided to make its plans public.

According to the Times article, planners faced several obstacles, including the zoning of the proposed site, which does not allow for a high-rise building. The article said that New York City officials were considering transferring air rights to the project from Lincoln Center's Josie Robertson Plaza, which the city owns.

An article from Bloomberg News said that the $400 million cost of the new opera house was another potential stumbling block.

The collapse of the deal is the latest setback in New York City Opera's long quest to find a new home. At one point, plans for the redevelopment of Lincoln Center included an opera house in the center's Damrosch Park, but the powerful Metropolitan Opera objected. Later, NYCO applied to be part of a new performing arts center at the former site of the World Trade Center, but was rejected in favor of the Signature Theater Company and the Joyce Theater. According to the Times, the company has also considered another site in lower Manhattan and a move back to New York City Center.

Founded in 1944, New York City Opera originally performed at City Center. In 1966, the company moved to the new Lincoln Center, where it shares the State Theater with New York City Ballet. But the State Theater's acoustics, designed for ballet, are considered subpar.

The plan to move to the Amsterdam Avenue site has been in the works at least since 2004, when it was reported by the Times. Later that year, executive director Sherwin M. Goldman stepped down in order to devote himself entirely to the project.

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