Commissioners Ask Developers to Rethink Design of Seventh Avenue South Project

130 7th LG

Rendering of proposed mixed-use building at 130 Seventh Avenue South, Manhattan. Image Credit: Gruzen Samton Architects.

Commissioners found the demolition of an existing one-story taxpayer building on the triangular site appropriate. On September 17, 2013, the Landmarks Preservation Commission met to consider an application for the demolition of an existing one-story building at 130 Seventh Avenue South in the Greenwich Village Historic District, and the construction of a new seven-story building on the site. The property consists of triangular lot created by the extension of Seventh Avenue southward in the early 20th century. Landmarks held a hearing on the item on July 9, 2013, but, given the extent of the testimony and the late hour, decided to hold over the applicants’ response to the testimony and the comments of the commissioners.

The application, designed by the firm of Gruzen Samton, proposed a building rising to five stories at the street wall, clad in largely in red brick, matching the height of nearby historic tenement buildings. Above the masonry, two-setback stories would be built, faced with a glass curtain wall. The building’s total height would be 75 feet. The western edge of the building would also be faced in glass. The architects said this design element was intended to recall Seventh Avenue South’s impact on the Greenwich Village street grid. The applicants claimed that red brick was material common to the historic district, and large casement windows would give the project an industrial quality.

Peter Samton, partner at Gruzen Samton, stated that the 1937 building at the site had never possessed any significant architectural style, and had been repeatedly and substantially altered over the decades.

Landmarks heard testimony from numerous speakers both in support and opposition to the plan. Preservationists and some residents found the project out-of-scale with the surrounding neighborhood, and argued that the project would negatively impact nearby residences. A consultant hired by the Compact for Urban Site Preservation testified that the existing building was worthy of protection, as an example of “early Moderne style.” Other residents testified that the existing building offered no benefit to community, had remained vacant for long stretches of time, and that the proposal would bring vitality to the corner.

When Landmarks reconvened on the issue on September 17, 2013, Jane Gol, the president of the joint developer of the site, Continental Venture Realty, responded that the building was “sympathetic to its neighbors” and would fit comfortably within the scale of the historic district. Susan Wright of Gruzen Samton stated that Landmarks had approved buildings in Greenwich Village that were both taller and had much higher proportions of glazing in their facades. Peter Samton also claimed that the project would “repair the wound” created by the extension of Seventh Avenue through the block.

The Commissioners agreed that the existing two-story building did not significantly contribute to the historic district, and that its demolition was appropriate, but responded coolly to the proposal for a new building. Commissioner Michael Goldblum said that he did not see the neighborhood as characterized by an industrial typology, and that the penthouse was one-story too tall. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter concurred that the project was not adequately responding to its immediate surroundings, and also found the glass penthouse to read as a separate addition rather than as part of the building. Perlmutter found the design in general reminiscent of a “cheaped-out version of 1 Jackson Square,” and in need of significant reconsideration. Commissioners Libby Ryan, Joan Gerner, and Michael Devonshire, all determined that the penthouse’s height was excessive. Commissioner Fred Bland agreed with his colleagues on the height of the penthouse, and though he found the proposal conceptually appropriate, said it was “not done artfully yet.”

Chair Robert B. Tierney declined to call a vote, and instead asked the applicants to return to Landmarks at a later date with a revised proposal after undertaking “a major rethinking” in light of commissioner comments.

LPC: 130 Seventh Avenue South, Manhattan (13-5467) (Sept. 17, 2013) (Architect: Gruzen Samton Architects).

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