April 2013 marked the end of a cultural era, when music venue/megaclub Roseland Ballroom closed its Midtown doors after more than a half century of live performances. The fate of the legendary live music space on West 52nd Street was sealed last summer, when interior demolition began. The Department of Buildings has approved a full destruction of the site, and today all that remains are its skeletal beams and remnants of its facade, newly evident in the beautiful aerial view of its ruins, shot during Sunday’s snowfall.
The historic structure is to be replaced by a large-scale redevelopment project in the form of an ultra-modern residential tower, with a three-story base slated for retail use. Renderings from its design architect CetraRuddy display a stacked, striated skyscraper with rooftop terraces and an outdoor pool, climbing 62-stories and encapsulating an entire city block, with addresses at 242 West 53rd and 239 West 52nd. This construction will mark one of the largest residential towers in the neighborhood, spanning 452,896 square feet and housing approximately 426 apartments.
The demolition of Roseland Ballroom has been denounced by community preservationists as well as by nightlife and dance club enthusiasts, all of whom oppose consistently replacing historical sites with omnipresent luxury residential towers. The iconic space was even mourned by the city board. When Community Board 5 gave its approval for air rights transfer for the luxury skyscraper, it made a statement that it was "saddened to see that the Roseland Ballroom will be torn down to make way for this development and [wish] that a development incorporating the Ballroom as a viable use and as an important venue in New York City would have been presented". Indeed, Roseland’s owner, Larry Ginsberg, has been publicly maligned for selling out the preservation of the historic institution. Apparently, though, Ginsberg had an increasingly decrepit structure on his hands, and the privately held Algin Management he and his siblings inherited would have needed to make extensive infrastructural repairs or pay the NYC Department of Buildings exorbitant fines.
That the demise of Roseland Ballroom appears to have been imminent, structurally related, and a long time coming, does not detract from the reality of what its redevelopment reinforces. The climate of New York’s development market dictates that when an iconic building closes its doors, high-end residential housing is likely to take its place, thus further transforming the city into a landscape where luxury living is the norm, and cultural landmarks are fewer and farther between.