Landmarks Asks for Redesign of Proposed Rooftop Addition for Harlem Rowhouse

Photo of project rendering courtesy of the Historic Districts Council

Owner proposed a one-story brown metal addition to 1890s rowhouse on St. Nicholas Avenue. On July 10, 2012, Landmarks considered 719/721 SNA Realty LLC’s proposal to build a one-story addition on top of a five-story rowhouse at 721 St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem’s Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill Historic District. Sitting at the corner of St. Nicholas Avenue and West 146th Street, the 1890s building features a curved tower with an arcading attic story facing St. Nicholas Avenue, and a brick parapet and a mansard roof facing West 146th Street. The building also features brownstone bands, which it shares with two adjacent rowhouses on St. Nicholas Avenue.

Architect Richard Franklin, of Franklin Associates, presented the proposal, which called for a brown-metal clad rooftop addition reaching nine-feet two-inches in height. The addition would set-back roughly eleven feet from the St. Nicholas Avenue facade, and sit flush with the West 146th Street facade. Franklin testified that the project would revitalize the deteriorating structure, while maintaining its original character. The building had long housed mixed uses, with retail on the ground-floor and residential uses above.

The Historic Districts Council’s Nadezhda Williams testified in opposition, stating that “a more sympathetic design is needed to work with and enhance [the building’s] distinctive features, not obliterate them.” According to Landmarks Chair Robert B. Tierney, Manhattan Community Board 9 also objected to the proposal, finding the “bulky and top-heavy” addition unsympathetic to adjacent buildings.

Several Commissioners also criticized the proposal. Commissioner Fred Bland agreed with CB 9, finding the addition’s bulk excessive, the architectural language unsympathetic, and the materials inappropriate. Commissioner Michael Goldblum stated that the design did not complement the “interesting and weird” historic structure. Goldblum, however, said the bulk would be acceptable if relocated to the St. Nicholas Avenue facade and redesigned “with more finesse and care.” Commissioner Joan Gerner suggested that that a more transparent design would make for a more sympathetic addition, while Commissioner Margery Perlmutter suggested extending the building’s rounded tower to create a turret.

Chair Tierney asked the applicant to return to Landmarks with a revised design.

LPC: 721 St. Nicholas Avenue, Manhattan (13-2205) (July 10, 2012) (Architect: Franklin Associates Architects/Planners).

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