New Development Proposed for Site where Gas Station Stands

Proposed Rendering for 112 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn. Image Credit: BKSK Architects.

Proposed Rendering for 112 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn. Image Credit: BKSK Architects.

Testimony in opposition to new 4-story brick-clad building focused on contemporary design and size of bulkhead. On November 18, 2014, the Landmarks Preservation Commission considered a proposal to construct a new building at 112 Atlantic Avenue, at the corner of Henry Street, in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill Historic District. The site is currently occupied by a 1960s gas station. The applicants proposed a new four-story residential building, with ground-floor commercial uses, and a garage for residents.

BKSK architect Stephen Byrns presented the proposal. Byrns said the proposal was not meant to specifically recall historic architecture, but serve as a contemporary residential building that would fit in the district and at the location. He noted that the building was at the edge of the district, and historic buildings in the immediate area represented numerous typologies, including a factory building, a laboratory, and residential structures. The four-story building would be clad primarily in brick, with a metallic glazing on the brick at the base. Windows would be framed in black aluminum. Four commercial storefronts would face Atlantic Avenue on the ground floor. Windows would be narrow closest to the adjoining neighbor on Atlantic Avenue, and grow wider as they approached Henry Street, with a large window wrapping around the corner. The building would be topped with a projecting cornice. The pattern of the brick cladding, including soldier courses above windows, would add vertical elements to an otherwise horizontal arrangement.

On Henry Street, the cladding and windows would be essentially the same, with an entrance for a nine space garage only accessible for building residents. The project would remove the gas station’s existing curb cuts, and create a new curb cut for the garage. Byrns stated that massing above the cornice, including mechanical equipment and roof sheds, would not be visible except for an elevator bulkhead, reaching 16 feet 7 inches above the parapet, which would be able to be seen from multiple vantages.

The project would require a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals for the ground-floor or retail use in the residentially zoned R6 district.

The Historic Districts Council’s Barbara Zay said the organization was pleased to see a proposal for the “underutilized site,” but criticized some details of the project, finding the “large, industrial-looking windows” inappropriate for Cobble Hill, and the rooftop accretions too bulky. Robert Levine, representing Brooklyn Community Board 6, testified that, though the proposal was a “big improvement” over the existing gas station, the board recommended denial, finding the proposal unsympathetic to the historic district, with too much glazing, and excessive bulk at the roof. The Cobble Hill Association’s Dave Abraham testified that the “starkly modern” design of the proposed building was inconsistent with the historic district. A nearby resident commented that the district was not industrial in character, and the proposal should take its cues from the historic residential building types.

One area resident spoke in favor of the plan, testifying that the existing gas station had long been an “eyesore,” and the “aesthetically pleasing” proposed structure would serve well as a transitional building at the district’s edge.

Byrns responded to the testimony, saying the building was not intended to read as industrial, and that many residential buildings displayed horizontal orientations. He also stated that only the elevator bulkhead among the rooftop equipment would be visible from public thoroughfares.

Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron found the proposal generally appropriate, and well-designed as a “quiet large building,” though commented that the fenestration pattern felt “confusing.” Commissioner Diana Chapin also praised the design and materials, but determined that more masonry should be added to the first floor to give it more solidity. Commissioner Michael Goldblum observed that the size of the elevator bulkhead was due to its extension to provide elevator access to the roof. He noted that the roof space was associated with individual residential units, and was only accessible to the tenants of those units, not a communal amenity available to every resident of the building, and therefore elevator access to the roof was not mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. He suggested that the elevator be modified to only reach the fourth, internal, floor, and the roof be accessible by stair from the associated units. Commissioner Fred Bland recommended that the window arrangement on both facades be more regularized.

Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan found a general concurrence among commissioners that the building’s size and form were appropriate, but asked the architects to work on reducing the elevator bulkhead, and refine details related to the windows and brick. Srinivasan noted that a contemporary approach was an appropriate direction for new architecture in a historic district. She asked the applicants to present a revised proposal to Landmarks at a later date.

LPC: 112 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn (16-2689) (Nov. 18, 2014) (Architects: BKSK Architects).

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