New Developer’s Changes to 2007 SoHo Project Approved by Landmarks

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Rendering of proposed nine-story building at 325 West Broadway. Image Courtesy: DDG.

New project would entail the demolition of two buildings, the restoration of a Wooster Street structure, and the construction of a new nine-story building. On March 12, 2013, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a proposal by developer DDG for a new development at 325 West Broadway, at the corner of Wooster Street, in the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District. The application sought to amend a certificate of appropriateness issued in 2007 to a different developer. The project would retain the essential bulk and massing of the previous plan. However, the design of the new building, as well as additions to existing buildings at 23 and 25 Wooster Street, would change.

As in the previous plan, the two buildings facing Wooster Street would be restored. Two mid-20th-century buildings, a garage and a warehouse, would be demolished to make way for the new structure. The new building would be residential, with two ground-floor retail spaces. Sidewalls, partially visible from the street, would be clad in concrete panels. Kramer Levin attorney Valerie Campbell said that the project would retain waivers issued by the Department of City Planning to change the site’s use to residential with ground-floor retail, as well as for height and setback waivers.

At the Landmarks hearing on March 5, 2013, architect Peter Guthrie presented a plan for a building that would rise to eight stories at the streetwall, with the eighth story set back behind a colonnade and a ninth floor penthouse. In addition to the change in materials, the new facade would be reorganized into a tripartite design, both horizontally and vertically. Guthrie said the facade would be more related to the cast-iron architecture of the district. The facade would be constructed of cast-aluminum columns and spandrels, which Guthrie called a “utilitarian material” that would suit the aesthetics of the district.  The facade would have a depth of approximately two feet from the window glass to the front of the spandrels. The set back stories would emulate the form of a mansard roof. Guthrie said the design was an attempt to “connect to the spirit of the loft buildings” of the district. Planters would be installed on the facade, with cables guiding vines, creating “a tracery of green.” The recessed base would be faced in glass, and Guthrie said the storefront would add to the street life of the “desolate” stretch of West Broadway.

On the rooftop additions facing Wooster Street, stucco in the original approved plan would be changed to slate, and an elevator bulkhead would be raised.

Jane McCarthy, representing Manhattan Community Board 2, recommended denial of the project, finding it insufficiently referential to the architecture of SoHo, as well as objecting to the design of the ground floor and lack of a distinct cornice. The Historic Districts Council’s Nadezhda Williams found the project to be a “great improvement” over the previously approved plan, and a “welcome addition to the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District.”

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Rendering of 325 West Broadway from Grand Street. Image Courtesy: DDG.

The Commissioners generally praised the design, finding it superior to the approved plan for the site, with Commissioner Fred Bland calling it “a huge positive change” from the previous plan, but asked for some modifications. Some commissioners expressed concerns about the building’s glass base, with Commissioner Diana Chapin saying she was initially perturbed by the “floating aspect,” but ultimately found it appropriate. Commissioners also criticized the gap in the side facade created by the colonnade in front of the set-back eighth floor. Commissioner Michael Goldblum thought the addition to the bulkhead on Wooster Street was “a lot to add,” and that the hollowness of the cast-aluminum elements would undermine the facade’s sculptural quality. Commissioner Libby Ryan thought the “void” at the base was not appropriate for the district, while Commissioner Michael Devonshire was convinced it was acceptable for a contemporary building. Chair Robert B. Tierney commended the applicants on their “excellent proposal,” but asked that they return with a refined plan before Landmarks could vote for approval.

When the applicants returned to Landmarks a week later on March 12, they presented a design that pulled the sidewalls forward at the eighth floor, eliminating the idiosyncratic gap in the side facade. They responded to the criticisms of the hollow cast-metal components by making the columns deeper, to accentuate the facade’s sculptural presence.

The Commissioners unanimously supported the revised proposal as appropriate. Commissioner Diana Chapin called the final proposal “an exceptionally exciting” interpretation of cast-iron architecture “in contemporary materials.” Commissioner Devonshire said he “wholeheartedly” endorsed approval. Commissioner Goldblum found the proposal to be a “somewhat peculiar building,” but nonetheless “entirely appropriate.”

LPC: 325-329 West Broadway, Manhattan (14-0294) (March 12, 2013) (Architect: DDG).

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