Will Luxury Condos Replace Famous Tennis Stadium?

Developers this week unveiled designs to transform The West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills in Queens, N.Y. - host site of the U.S. Open until the late 1970s - into luxury condominiums. Cord Meyer Development Co. wants to pay up to $9 million to scoop out the stadium's interior and replace it with as many as 75 luxury units, carrying prices that could top $1 million each. Cord Meyer also agreed to provide $750,000 to build a permanent structure over the club's clay tennis courts to ensure year-round use. The stadium's facade and arches would remain. (Click here to see an artist's rendering.)

The issue of what to do with the little-used venue has long split the club's membership. Fixing the stadium would cost millions, club president Ken Parker, told The Wall Street Journal. "The stadium itself cannot be used," he said. "It's not safe for people to climb into it."

But the proposal is not without its detractors. Losing the stadium "would be the equivalent to ripping the heart out of Forest Hills," said Michael Perlman, chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council - an organization striving to "preserve and commemorate the architectural and cultural history of Rego Park and Forest Hills." He also said the proposed modern design, featuring "brutalist style" architecture "would suck the soul out of the stadium." Meanwhile, four government officials, including a city council member and a state senator, have inquired with the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission about securing landmark status for the 15,000-seat stadium.

Two-thirds of the club's approximately 290 eligible voting members must approve the sale. Because many of them are on vacation, the vote to determine the proposal's fate has been moved from later this month to late September. Even if it is approved, the plan still will face a lengthy approval process. According to The Wall Street Journal, Forest Hills Gardens Corp, which maintains the 150-acre private Forest Hills Gardens community, must give the project final approval. Plus, the plan's aesthetic doesn't match the neighborhood's Tudor-style architecture, which could conflict with strict local design guidelines.

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