New Building Approved for Vacant Lot in BAM Historic District

Architect rendering of 147 St. Felix Street. Image credit: Think Architecture

Architect rendering of 147 St. Felix Street. Image credit: Think Architecture

Commissioners praised design of proposed three-story residential building for relating to historic district in an innovative contemporary manner. On January 19, 2016, the Landmarks Preservation Commission considered a proposal for a new building on a vacant lot at 147 St. Felix Street, at the corner of Hanson Place. The site lies at the edge of the Brooklyn Academy of Music Historic District. A mid-19th century rowhouse originally on the lot was lost in 1917, and the reproduction that replaced it was demolished due to dangerous conditions following a water main break in 1999.

Jack Esterson, of Think Architecture and Design, presented the proposal. The three-story, 38-foot-tall building of 3,400 square feet will contain a 1-family dwelling and a rental unit on the ground floor. Esterson testified that the site was at a transitional point between the low-rise residential architecture of the district, and the large commercial and institutional buildings outside of the district that the lot faces. He said the “very modern” building was intended to relate to the historic district through its materials in details. The building would be clad in brick, as are the historic rowhouses of St. Felix Street.

He said that the proposed building was a “contemporary design that is of its time,” while remaining sympathetic to the district and its setting, through scale, materials, color and detail. On St. Felix, the building would have regularized windows, with a stoop and front garden. On the longer Hanson Place facade, windows would be larger and arranged in an asymmetric pattern. Esterson noted that the longer facades of historic corner buildings were often “looser” in composition than their narrower faces. Vertical yellow louvers made of durable trespa would accent the brick, and relate to the more contemporary architecture the building faces across the street.

A one-story garage would be built next to the adjoining building on Hanson Place, at an existing curb cut, with a rooftop terrace above it. Esterson said the garage would evoke the “one-story appendages” often found on historic corner buildings.

The site’s owner, Alireza Esmaeilzadeh, read a letter from the Brooklyn Academy of Music in support of the plan, which called the proposal “a welcome addition” to the neighborhood, meeting a “high standard of architecture,” that would constitute a vast improvement over the often trash-strewn vacant lot.

The Historic District Council’s Kelly Carroll expressed appreciation for the “considered design,” but found it to inadequately relate to the district’s historic architecture, and that the facades should be simplified, as there were too many “stylistic choices happening at once” in the proposal.

Commissioner Fred Bland said that the applicants had observed the historic district, and site’s context on the edge of the district, extremely well, resulting in an “extraordinarily successful” design. Commissioners Michael Devonshire and Diana Chapin agreed, with Devonshire calling it an “exciting contemporary design,” and Chapin finding it “completely appropriate.” Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan determined that the site’s context “allows for some whimsy,” and that the proposal was “very attractive,” and served to anchor the historic district.

The Commission unanimously voted to approve the project without modification.

LPC: 147 St. Felix Street, Brooklyn (17-4091) (Jan. 19, 2016) (Architects: Think Architecture and Design).

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