Cool reception for demolition of Village bldg.

Developer seeks to demolish 1929 building to construct three-story mixed-use building. On February 12, 2008, Landmarks heard testimony on an application to demolish a two-story commercial building and construct a three-story building with a penthouse in its place.

George H. McCabe designed the existing building, located at 131 Seventh Avenue South in the Greenwich Village Historic District, with a sophisticated brick design and stepped parapet. McCabe, who was a Greenwich Village resident, also designed the Washington Heights Courthouse and various buildings in the Hamilton Fish estate, including a studio on Irving Place located just south of the Fish mansion in the Gramercy Park Historic District.

Architect Ingrid Hustveldt, from the firm Hustveldt Cutler, designed the plans for the new three-story building, which featured a facade of brick and limestone and a copperclad penthouse. The new building would have ground-floor retail, while the floors above would be residential. Hustveldt emphasized that the new building would comply with the area’s zoning, while respecting the historic district’s overall aesthetic. Regarding the existing building, Hustveldt stated that it was an “uninteresting building 80 years ago, and I would argue that it still is.”

Preservationists, however, largely disagreed. Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City cited McCabe’s legacy and praised his use of brick at the existing building. Gough further testified that it would be “tragic for this building to be replaced, especially in the style that is proposed.” The Historic Districts Council also testified against demolition.

Commissioner Christopher Moore stated that he was “shocked” that the topic of demolition was even under discussion. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter stated that though the existing building was not one of great distinction, it was nonetheless an important contributor to the historic district. Commissioners Stephen Byrns and Roberta Washington, however, believed that they could potentially support a new building at the site, although not without modifications to Hustveldt’s plans. Chair Robert B. Tierney closed the hearing, stating that “if further study is warranted, it will be undertaken.”

LPC: 131 Seventh Avenue South, Manhattan (COFA# 08-2618) (Feb. 12, 2008).

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