Landmarks Approves NoHo Project With Only Minor Tweaks

Rendering of 688 Broadway. Credit: BKSK Architects LLP

Compliments abound for BKSK-designed eleven-story-plus-penthouse building proposed for Broadway lot used for flea market. On October 9, 2012, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved Downtown RE Holdings LLC’s plan to build an eleven-story-plus-penthouse building at 688 Broadway in the NoHo Historic District. The site has been used as a parking lot and is currently occupied by a flea market.

George Schieferdecker and Harry Kendall, from BKSK Architects, presented Downtown RE Holdings’ proposal. The building would rise up to 150 feet (including bulkhead) and its set-back penthouse would be visible from some vantages. An irregularly shaped brick and terra cotta-glassed screen would sit in front of the building’s metal and glass facade. The building would feature a prominent cornice and a stone base, with its first two stories framed with metal. Kendall pointed out that the building’s height would be neither exceptionally tall nor short for the area. He explained that because the underlying zoning required a set back at 85 feet, the developer would apply to the City Planning Commission to modify the zoning resolution’s bulk regulations.

According to Kendall, the building’s rear facade would be designed in a very utilitarian manner and be clad in brick. Rear balconies would be built in steel meant to evoke fire escapes. The rear of the lot faces Great Jones Alley, which connects to Great Jones Street and is owned by Downtown RE Holdings, but shared with the neighboring buildings. Downtown RE Holdings plans to replace the alley’s existing security gate with a smaller, more transparent gate. Lights and Belgian-block paving would also be installed in the alley.

Manhattan Community Board 2’s Doris Diether said CB 2 found that the building would contribute to the district and supported the choice of materials. However, CB 2 recommended altering the design of the base, which it found to be “squat.” The Historic Districts Council’s Nadezhda Williams complimented the design, finding that it fit into the “context of the NoHo Historic District in a contemporary manner.” The Society for the Architecture of the City’s Christabel Gough stated that it was “once in a blue moon” that an interesting and original proposal is submitted for new building in a historic district. Gough said the proposal demonstrated that it was possible to have a new building that was “of our time without being an expression of contempt for traditions.”

View from East 4th Street of 688 Broadway. Credit: BKSK Architects LLP

The commissioners were also complimentary of the proposal, but requested minor modifications. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter commended the architects for their choice of materials finding that they followed a NoHo tradition of experimentation with metal, brick, and terra cotta. Perlmutter, however, said the penthouse should not be set back, and found that the alley would be “too dolled up,” and needed more “grit.” Vice Chair Pablo Vengoechea said the replacement gate at the alley should be more substantial, but otherwise praised the “well thought out and very nicely detailed project.” Commissioner Libby Ryan echoed the praise of the other commissioners, but agreed with public testimony calling for refinements to the building’s base. Commissioner Fred Bland stated that the “ravishing” building was appropriate as proposed.

Landmarks unanimously approved the proposal, with the proviso that the applicant would work with Landmarks staff to revise the design of the base and alley gate.

LPC: 688 Broadway, Manhattan (13-6343) (October 9, 2012) (Architect: BKSK Architects LLP).

Leave a Reply

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