Garage demolition, new residential loft building approved

Morris Adjmi design wins praise from Commissioners. On September 9, 2008, Landmarks heard testimony on three applications for certificates of appropriateness with respect to adjacent properties at 414-422 Greenwich Street and 401-411 Washington Street in the Tribeca North Historic District. The applications propose the demolition of a 1956 garage, the construction of a new six-story building with a penthouse, and a penthouse addition to an existing 1906 loft building adjacent to the garage.

Architectural historian Bill Higgins testified on behalf of the owner that the 1906 Neo-Renaissance loft building had been built as a storehouse for coffee and tea. Higgins noted that the original terra cotta detailing had suffered significant water damage and would be restored as part of the development. Additionally, the brick facade would be cleaned, and eroded mortar joints repaired. As for the garage, Higgins testified that it was the last building constructed in the district before designation, and did not contribute to the district’s character.

Architect Morris Adjmi presented his plan for the new building, and provided the Commissioners with sample materials. Adjmi proposed marine-grade cast aluminum plates for the facade of the new building, the same material used for airplane propellers and submarines. The oneand- a-half-inch thick aluminum plates would be etched with a brick pattern of the exact same dimensions as the brickwork on the adjacent 1906 building. The window sizes and ornamentation would also mirror that of its neighbor. Adjmi recalled that his inspiration to replicate the existing adjacent facade derived from his research of the historical pattern of loft building expansion in the area.

Commissioner Fred Bland, attending the first hearing since his appointment, stated that he appreciated Adjmi’s ability to recall the cast iron architecture, once popular in the area, with the cast aluminum plates. While Bland found the penthouse “quite recessive,” other Commissioners opposed its presence, or at least its visibility from the street. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter, who generally endorsed the project, called the penthouse “the least strong part of the proposal.” Commissioner Pablo Vengochea worried that the effect of the blue-gray aluminum would be too “somber,” and suggested the addition of some different hues. Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz stated that she was “ambivalent” about the project, and “not a fan of replication.” None of the Commissioners objected to the demolition of the garage or the change in use.

The Commission approved the project, but asked the applicant to work with Landmarks’ staff to reduce the visibility of the penthouse. The vote to issue the certificates of appropriateness passed unanimously.

LPC: 414-422 Greenwich St. (COFA# 09- 1064); 401-411 Washington St (COFA# 09-1064; 09-1062) (Sept. 9, 2008). CITYADMIN

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