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NEW YORK CITY-AvalonBay Communities Inc. will break ground today on a $126-million, 296-unit apartment complex on the city’s upper West Side. Avalon Morningside Park, as the project is dubbed, will be the company’s fourth development project in Manhattan.

Located on 110th Street, on the southeast corner of the three block parcel owned by the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the building will rise 20 stories in height and total 243,000 sf of rentable space, Fred Harris, SVP of development for AvalonBay tells GlobeSt.com. The company signed a 99-year ground lease in September 2006 with the cathedral to develop on the site.

According to Harris, when the Cathedral when up for landmark status a couple years ago, two sites were deliberately left out of consideration with the hopes that they could one day be developed. One of those sites will become this apartment complex, Harris says.

The plot of land is actually an infill site, which housed dirt removed when building portions of St. John the Divine and hid the unsightly elevated train that used to run through that part of town. “It is still sort of a blank wall,” Harris says, adding that the new building will lighten the corner significantly and improve the area.

Construction will begin in a couple weeks after some remaining pre-construction work is finished, Harris says. The property is expected to see its first residents in the summer of 2008 and be complete by January 2009.

There will be one-, two- and three-bedroom units, ranging in size from 500 sf to 1,350 sf, Harris says. Of the 296 units, 20% of them will be affordable. The property will also include a public plaza, parking, bike storage, lounge and community room.

The area around St. John the Divine is mostly residential. But Harris says there have been very few new units brought to the market in the last couple years.

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