Landmarks Approves 23-Story Hotel for West 28th Street Site

Rendering of proposed 250 Fifth Avenue additions. Image Courtesy: Platt Byard Dovell White.

Alterations to facade design win approval for setback tower to be built on existing two-story base. On December 11, 2012, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to approve an application by Quartz Associates LLC for a site at 250 Fifth Avenue in the Madison Square North Historic District. The plan calls for the construction of a tower that will rise to 23 stories on top of a one-story extension to the bank building facing West 28th Street. The new tower would be set back twenty feet from the existing base. A penthouse would also be built on the five-story bank building which faces the avenue. The work will serve the conversion of the property to hotel use. The applicants intend to conduct a complete restoration of the bank building.

Landmarks held a hearing on July 24, 2012 on the project. (See Cityland’s past coverage here). Architect Charles Platt, of Platt Byard Dovell White, said the building’s massing, specifically the tower’s setback, which is atypical for the historic district, was mandated by the site’s C5-2 zoning. The building was clad in precast concrete and brick bands, with asymmetrical piers emphasizing the building’s verticality.

Representatives of the Historic Districts Council and the Society for the Architecture for the City opposed the building’s zoning-driven massing. The Society’s Christabel Gough recommended that the applicants seek a variance to build the tower at the streetwall. Manhattan Community Board 5 submitted a letter to the Landmarks Commission recommending approval of the project.

The Commissioners were split on the proposal, with Commissioners Fred Bland, Joan Gerner, and Diana Chapin finding the plan close to approvable. Vice Chair Pablo Vengoechea found the proposal’s massing excessive, and Commissioner Michael Goldblum found the project would be much more contextual if the tower were built at the streetwall.

When the applicants returned at the December 11th meeting, Charles Platt demonstrated modifications to the design of the facade tower that would introduce more horizontal elements, which make the architecture more contextual with the district’s historic buildings. Horizontal steel channels and louvers would be introduced to the facades, and previously metal spandrel panels would now be stone. Platt noted that the Madison Square North Historic District did not have a consistent building height or building typology, but was “a district of practically all exceptions.” He said the contemporary tower setback from the early 20th-century fabric, suited the “juxtaposition of surfaces” which characterizes the district. The section of the tower facing Fifth Avenue over the top of the bank building was redesigned to give it greater primacy. A new canopy was also designed for the hotel entrance, on West 28th Street.

Commissioners Bland and Gerner reiterated their support for the project, with Bland calling the revisions “pretty subtle, but successful.” Commissioner Diana Chapin found the revisions served to make the project more contextual. Most of the Commissioners commented on the new canopy as a positive addition. Commissioner Goldblum dissented, arguing that buildings rising straight from the streetwall were a defining characteristic of the historic district, and the setback tower made the project “a non-starter in this district.”

Vice Chair Vengoechea abstained from the vote, saying the project did not have enough context and was not ready for approval though he found the proposed structure “handsome.” Vengoechea argued that “zoning should not be what drives form,” and agreed with Commissioner Goldblum that “this is a streetwall district.”

Chair Robert B. Tierney called for a vote after expressing approval for the project. The Landmarks Commission voted to issue a Certificate of Appropriateness for the project, with one no vote and one abstention.

LPC: 250 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan (12-5106) (Dec. 11, 2012) (Architect: Platt Byard Dovell White Architects).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.