New building on vacant Tribeca lot considered

In 1999 Landmarks approved plan for new six-story structure, but owner died before developing site. On September 7, 2010, Landmarks considered Real Estate Equities Corporation’s proposal to construct a seven-story residential building on a vacant corner lot facing Finn Square at 137 Franklin Street in the Tribeca West Historic District. The site had once been occupied by a one-story building built in 1985. In 1999, Landmarks approved the then-owner’s plan to demolish the building and construct a six-story structure. The building was demolished, but the owner died, leaving the project in limbo and the lot vacant.

At the hearing, Real Estate Equities Corporation’s Brandon Miller argued that the vacant lot’s development would complete Finn Square. Architect Markus Dochantschi, from studioMDA, explained that the proposed seven-story building would be clad in red brick and feature a black granite and metal base. Arched bays would span the building’s height on the visible facades, and a black metal and epoxy cornice would top the structure. Lateral bands of angled glass-tile panels would be installed at four levels of the facade. According to the architects, the building would not cover the entire lot due to underlying zoning requirements.

Manhattan Community Board 1 generally supported the proposal provided that the material of the base and cornice were changed. The Historic Districts Council’s Nadezhda Williams also objected to the proposed cornice and argued that building out to the lot lines would “create a more complete building and street front.”

Commissioner Fred Bland greeted the proposal with enthusiasm, stating that the architect successfully designed a building derived from the surrounding context that was not a “slavish replication” of anything else. Bland did, however, note that the cornice was somewhat “clunky” and should be simpler. Although Vice Chair Pablo Vengoechea found the proposal generally appropriate, he said the design was “restrained” and that the base needed to be “stronger” and taller. Vengoechea argued that the project would be improved if the zoning regulations permitted a building that fully covered the lot. Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz expressed frustration that zoning requirements would trump Landmarks’ view of what was appropriate.

Landmarks asked the applicants to return with a refined plan.

LPC: 137 Franklin St., Manhattan (10-9483) (Sept. 7, 2010) (Architect: studioMDA).

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