New Columbus Avenue Development Approved after Revisions

Columbus Avenue Development

Image Credit: BKSK

Modifications to proposal for eight-story-plus-penthouse structure included revisions to cornice and base, and lowering some floor heights. On September 6, 2016, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the demolition of an existing building and a new development at 466 Columbus Avenue in the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District. The approved plan will replace an existing structure built in 1894 but heavily altered in intervening years. The site is owned and will be developed by the Roe Corporation.

At an initial hearing, held on July 19, 2016, the applicants attested that the existing building had been heavily compromised to accommodate different uses including the addition of a third story approved by Landmarks in 2006. The applicants proposed a building with an eight-story streetwall primarily composed of brick and terra cotta, consistent with the district’s traditional masonry, with a painted metal storefront. The seventh floor would be topped with brick corbelling, with the eighth floor set back from the street facade. A metal cornice would project from above the eighth floor. A setback duplex penthouse would be only partially visible from certain oblique public perspectives.

Commissioners did not object to the proposed demolition, or for a significant increase in height at the site, but did ask that the design be modified. Some commissioners felt the building’s masonry cladding should extend through the base and expressed concern about the design of the cornice. Other commissioners opined that the proposal’s height should be slightly lowered.

When the commission reconvened on the issue, architects Harry Kendall and Todd Poisson, of the firm BKSK, presented the revised plan for the site. Kendall said the design was inspired by the “robustness and richness” of the masonry detailing of the district’s historic architecture. The building’s height was brought down by five feet by lowering certain floor heights. The building’s base, which would be occupied by a retail use, was redesigned, and would no longer be faced in painted metal, but in terra cotta, so the entire facade would composed in masonry. A terra-cotta band would top the streetwall above the seventh floor, replacing the brick corbel previously proposed, and the metal above the eighth floor would be simplified and reduced in size. The cornice piece would also be painted in a darker, “warmer” color.

The design of the main facade would remain largely the same, with brick columns, terra cotta baguettes, and brick spandrels, however windows were made smaller. The facade would be eight inches deep.

Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said the modifications were moving the project in the “right direction,” but that it could benefit from further tweaking, including lowering its streetwall height a few feet further to ensure that it “sits in comfortably” on the block. Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said the proposal’s height was now appropriate, but that she still found the cornice incomprehensible. Commissioner Michael Goldblum said the revised plan felt “less towering,” and that the relationship between the base and the top was much improved. Goldblum further noted that interpretations of historic architecture had become its own “interesting subgenre of contemporary architecture.” Commissioner Fred Bland enthusiastically endorsed the proposal, particularly commending the “thrilling” detailing of the “exciting” building. Commissioner Jeane Lutfy praised the applicant’s “holistic” approach to revising the plan, which she said was improved and appropriate.

With commissioners finding the proposal to fall within the bounds of appropriateness, Chair Srinivasan led a unanimous vote for approval.

LPC: 466 Columbus Avenue, Manhattan (18-4172) (Sept. 6, 2016) (Architects: BKSK Architects).

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

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