Proposal to Demolish and Replace Destabilized 19th-Century Building Approved after Alterations to Design

327 Bleecker, Greenwich Village Historic Society

Rendering of 327 Bleecker Street. Image Credit: FSI Architecture.

New corner building will use reclaimed brick from the demolished structure to the extent possible and appear largely as the demolished building did circa 1940. On September 13, 2016, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to approve the demolition of the building at 327 Bleecker Street in the Greenwich Village Historic District. The deteriorated and unstable building on the corner lot, which dates to the 1830s, will be replaced with a structure that would reflect how the existing building appeared in the early 20th century. The owners had initially intended to retain and alter the existing building, and received a certificate of appropriateness for planned work in 2012.

At a November 2015 hearing on the demolition and redevelopment, the applicants presented evidence that the building’s load-bearing walls were severely degraded and unstable, and the building needed to come down. John Weiss, counsel for Landmarks, stated that Department of Buildings engineers had also determined that demolition was necessary.

The applicants proposed to redevelop the site with a four-story, brick-clad structure with a mansard roof. The mansard would have a bay window facing Bleecker Street, and the ground floor would have storefronts facing both Bleecker and Christopher Streets, in an “eclectic rhythm.” A stairwell and roof bulkhead would be visible from Christopher Street. The building would display a variety of window types. The applicants stated that the existing building, originally a two-story Federal-style house, had accreted height and bulk throughout its existence, and had once hosted a mansard roof.

Preservationist organizations and Manhattan Community Board 2 opposed approval of the project, arguing that a redevelopment should be more historically accurate. The Landmarks Commission found the initial design inappropriate, with Commissioner Fred Bland criticizing the proposal as an amalgam of disparate historic elements. Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan asked the applicants to simplify their design, and reconsider the proposal’s roofline and massing, before returning to Landmarks with a revised proposal.

In 2016, FSI Architecture’s Julie Georgopoulos presented an amended plan that featured a building that would resemble the appearance of the existing building in a 1940s tax photograph, though slightly taller. The mansard would no longer wrap around the roof, but only face Bleecker Street. The building’s long side facade, facing Christopher Street, would be greatly simplified with no mansard, brick cladding, and regularized windows, clearly identifying it as a secondary facade. The stair bulkhead would be concealed with a parapet, rendering it invisible to pedestrians. The bay window would be removed from the mansard facing Bleecker Street, and replaced with more historically accurate fenestration. The now-smaller storefront at the corner would have wood infill with reclaimed granite piers, and a pressed-metal cornice. A residential entrance would be located on Christopher Street. Brick from the building to be torn down would be retained and reutilized wherever salvageable.

Chair Srinivasan announced that the revised plan was “much better,” and that the simplification of the design was to the proposal’s benefit. Srinivasan asked the applicants to work with Landmarks staff in refining and implementing the details. The Commission voted unanimously to approve the project.

LPC: 327 Bleecker Street, Manhattan (14-2666) (Sept. 13, 2016) (Architects: FSI Archiecture).

By:  Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law).

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