Hotel expansion stalled

Cosmopolitan Hotel’s expansion plan heard. Photo:Nicole Nahas

Expansion plan calls for demolition of neighboring building. On June 2, 2009, Landmarks considered the expansion plans for the Cosmopolitan Hotel located at the corner of West Broadway and Chambers Street within the Tribeca South Historic District. The applicants planned to demolish the two-story 1967 building adjacent to the hotel, home to Mary Ann’s Mexican restaurant, replacing it with a six-story, brick-face building with an aluminum marquee and metal detailing. The district’s designation report lists the 1967 building, proposed for demolition, as a non-contributing structure. The applicants also proposed a new rooftop bulkhead on the existing hotel, which dates back to 1844.

Matthew Gottsegen, of Franke Gottsegen Cox Architects, explained that the new six-story building would match the height of adjacent loft buildings. On its ground floor, a continuous aluminum marquee would crown a wrap-around, glass facade. Gottsegen chose brick for the second through fifth floors to correspond to the original hotel’s brick facade, and a metal-paneled sixth floor. Gottsegen characterized the new building’s design as one that “acknowledges context but is a building of its time.” Gottsegen pointed out that the original hotel had also undergone significant changes over the years, increasing in height from four to seven stories.

A representative of Manhattan Community Board 1 spoke in opposition, calling the design “blandly contextual,” and saying it “looks like it was designed by committee.” He also claimed that the applicants refused to work with CB1’s landmarks committee to reach a suitable design. Council Member Alan Gerson also opposed the project, stating that the existing 1967 structure worked with the historic context and preserved views of the garden across the street. Gerson said that the proposed design “at best, is bland.” Gerson could not find a reason why the applicants ignored CB1’s request to delay presenting the proposal to Landmarks, and urged them to contact his office to facilitate the community’s involvement.

Attorney Fredrick A. Becker, representing the applicants, called CB1’s testimony “inappropriate and incorrect,” and claimed that the applicants did not hold the presentation over so that it could go forward with comments from both Landmarks and CB1. Becker described the community board meetings as a “hostile environment,” where there was little opportunity to discuss the new building, because those present wished to retain the old building. Becker said that the applicants would be willing to meet with Gerson and CB1.

Commissioners generally found the mass and bulk of the proposed building acceptable, but requested extensive design modifications. Commissioner Pablo Vengoechea found the glass storefront “completely disconnected” from the upper floors. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter commented that the type of subtlety the architect was striving for worked only when the detail and materials were “spectacular.” Chair Robert B. Tierney closed the meeting without setting a date for the applicants to return with a revised design.

LPC: 125 Chambers Street, Manhattan (COFA# 09-6531) (June 2, 2009).

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