Block Front Redevelopment Approved After Modifications

Rendering of approved development. Image credit: BKSK

Rendering of approved development. Image credit: BKSK

Commissioners split on simultaneous redevelopment of five buildings, including significant increase in height beyond existing structures in some lots. On June 7, 2016, the Landmarks Preservation voted to approve the issuance of three certificates of appropriateness impacting five buildings spanning an entire block on the south side of Gansevoort Street between Greenwich and Washington Street in the Gansevoort Market Historic District. The five buildings occupy three tax lots. Aurora Capital and William Gottlieb Real Estate are the project’s developers.

An initial proposal was presented in November of 2015, with Commissioners commenting on the plan at a subsequent hearing on February 9, 2016. The original proposal would have demolished a former truck depot at the corner of Washington Street, at 68-74 Gansevoort, diagonally across from the Whitney Museum of Art, and see the construction of a new building with a six-story streetwall and two additional penthouse floors. At 60-68 Gansevoort, four additional stories would be constructed atop the existing two-story building. The market buildings at 52-58 Gansevoort would be preserved and restored.  A new four-story building would replace the existing building at 50 Gansevoort, which was built as an ancillary structure to the market. The building at the Greenwich Street would be preserved but altered.

Wide opposition was voiced against the proposal, including from Manhattan Community Board 2, and from representatives of numerous elected officials. Assembly Member Deborah Glick testified that the project was “unpopular and inappropriate.” Area residents and preservationists also attended the hearing to object to the scheme. Chair Srinivasan stated that the Commission had received 820 emails urging Landmarks to reject or modify the proposal.

Srinivasan determined that the district’s designation was not intended to favor any one period of the area’s development, and the Commission was not bound to protecting the low-rise character of the late 20th century. Commissioner Fred Bland accepted that the district was “fluid and changing,” but opined that 50 Gansevoort, at the corner of Greenwich Street should remain a low rise, building, and the corner building at Washington Street should be reduced in height. Commissioner Adi Shamir Baron found the simultaneous redevelopment of multiple building along an entire block front was inappropriate for the district and its history of gradual change.  The applicants were asked to modify their proposal and return to Landmarks at a later date with a revised plan

Harry Kendall, of BKSK Architects, presented the modified proposal at the recent June public meeting. The setback penthouse stories initially proposed for number 60-68 and 70-74 were removed from the plan. 60-68 Gansevoort would then match its historic height of 61 feet eleven inches. Despite documents from the Department of Buildings that record the buildings’ height as alternately 55 and 50 feet, Kendall said analysis of existing joists and historic photographs demonstrated that the historic tenement buildings on the height were actually taller. The facade was also revised since the initial presentation, into a “quieter, more contemporary” arrangement. The facade of the existing two story building would be preserved at the base, maintaining what Kendall called the “romance of the ruin.” The new stories would be separated from the historic ones by a metal channel.

70-74 Gansevoort was also reduced in height, bringing it more in scale with the district’s historic industrial architecture. The building would rise to 82 feet at the streetwall. The facade of 50 Gansevoort would no longer be demolished and replaced, but instead retained, with its non-original cladding removed and the facade restored.

Though no public testimony was heard at the June meeting, numerous protesters held signs opposing the development and it’s massing.

Srinivasan again emphasized that the Gansevoort Historic District was largely characterized by change and variegated streetscapes. She found the revised proposal to be respectful of the district and to recall historic typologies, and commended the applicants for preserving the small scale at the eastern end of the block. Commissioner Fred Bland found the revised proposal appropriate, and said the existing building at the corner of Washington Street was “inappropriately low,” and the new structure would improve the site. Commissioners Wellington Chen and John Gustafsson agreed that, after having been refined, the proposal now met the benchmark of appropriateness.

Commissioner Michael Goldblum opined that that the addition to 60-68 Gansevoort should stay within recorded historic heights and that the historic tenement fabric should be more clearly delineated from the new material for the visitor. Commissioner Devonshire agreed with Goldblum, and also argued that the new building on the corner of Washington should be reduced by one story. Commissioners voted to grant certificates of appropriateness to the project, with Commissioners Goldblum and Devonshire dissenting.

LPC: 46-50 Gansevoort Street; 52-58 Gansevoort Street; 60-74 Gansevoort Street, Manhattan (17-6619; 17-6620; 17-6621) (June 7, 2016) (Architects: BKSK Architects).

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

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