Landmarks Unsatisfied By Revised Rooftop Addition Proposed for Harlem Rowhouse

Revised rooftop addition proposal at 721 St. Nicholas Avenue. Credit: Franklin Associates

Revised design shifted bulk of proposed one-story addition on St. Nicholas Avenue building toward front facade, but commissioners still found it excessive. On October 2, 2012, the Landmarks Preservation Commission considered 719/721 SNA Realty LLC’s revised proposal for a one-story rooftop addition to a five-story building at 721 St. Nicholas Avenue on the corner of St. Nicholas Avenue and West 146th Street in the Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill Historic District.  The Romanesque Revival building features a curved front facade with an arcading attic story along St. Nicholas Avenue, and a mansard roof and brick parapet along the building’s West 146th Street roofline.

In July 2012, Landmarks considered SNA Realty’s first proposal, designed by architect Richard Franklin. The proposal called for a brown-metal clad addition that would reach nine-feet two-inches in height and be set back 11 feet from St. Nicholas Avenue. The commissioners found the design unsympathetic to the historic structure, and recommended that the architect use different materials and consider concentrating the addition’s bulk toward the avenue rather than along West 146th Street. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter suggested extending the height of the rounded tower to create a turret. (See CityLand’s past coverage here.)

The developer returned in October with a revised proposal. The new proposal shifted the bulk of the addition to the rounded tower at the front of the building, and set the addition back from the West 146th Street facade. The addition would follow the curve of the front facade along St. Nicholas Avenue, and would feature red brick and contemporary windows. The remaining portion of the addition would be clad in synthetic stucco.

Initial proposal rejected by LPC.

The commissioners found that the revised design was still too large and visible. Commissioner Perlmutter likened the addition to a lighthouse’s beacon and said it was “simply too tall.” Vice Chair Pablo Vengoechea found that the proposal “negates the Romanesque character of this building,” and that there was too much bulk along West 146th Street. Commissioner Diana Chapin said the addition was “out of proportion with the rest of the building,” and concluded that it might not be feasible to “add much to the front of that building.” Commissioner Joan Gerner said she was struggling to find a solution, but the revised design “was really just too much.”

Chair Robert B. Tierney said that it might not be possible to add a floor to the building that would not “extinguish” the building’s character. Tierney doubted that it would be physically possible to add something to the front of the building that would be minimally visible, but suggested that some volume could be added to the back. He declined to call for a vote to deny the project, and gave the developer and architect an opportunity to further revise the proposal.

LPC: 721 St. Nicholas Avenue, Manhattan (13-2205) (October 2, 2012) (Architect: Franklin Associates).

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