Puck Building additions OK’d

Size and visibility of proposed rooftop additions reduced over course of several meetings. After multiple revisions, Landmarks unanimously approved Kushner Companies’ proposal to build rooftop additions on the Puck Building at 295 Lafayette Street in SoHo. The individual landmark occupies a full block on the south side of Houston Street and consists of two sections designed by architect Albert Wagner. The first section, built in 1886, rises to seven stories, and a nine-story rear extension was built in 1892. 

In September 2011, Kushner submitted a proposal for two, two-story penthouse additions and the restoration of the crenellated rooftop parapets on the building’s nine-story section. Designed by PKSB Architects, the glass additions would have been on the roofs of both sections of the building and visible from the street. Preservationists and Manhattan Community Board 2 objected to the plan. The Commissioners also objected to the design, finding that the project’s bulk and visibility would be inappropriate for an individual landmark. 8 CityLand 141 (Oct. 15, 2011).

In November, Kushner returned with a revised design that reduced the proposal’s floor area by five percent and its total volume by 26 percent. According to PKSB’s Sherida Paulsen, the new design scheme was inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A proposed angled glass addition on the taller rear extension would slope down toward the front of the building. The lower level addition would still abut the rear extension’s brick wall and would be made with “earthbound materials” to blend in with the roof. Although reduced, the additions would still be visible from several street vantages.

The commissioners generally praised the design, but again found that the additions were too visible. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter did not see a need to build vertically, pointing out that Kushner could take advantage of the building’s large parapets to conceal a large amount of floor area. Commissioner Fred Bland found that despite the proposal’s inspired story-line, it was still too large and visible and called too much attention to itself.

Kushner returned with another revised design on December 6, 2011. Paulsen again presented the proposal, noting that Kushner had decided to lower the additions’ heights and spread the mass across the roof. All of the building’s parapets, including those once existing on the seven-story section’s roofline, would now be fully restored. The rebuilt parapets would help conceal the planned additions. The addition to the nine-story section would be reduced to one story with a mezzanine, and the ceiling heights in both additions would be lowered. The commissioners found that the proposal was headed in the right direction, but believed, as stated by Commissioner Michael Devonshire, that it required “just a bit of nip and tuck.”

On December 20, 2011, Kushner returned for the fourth time with a revised proposal that further minimized the visibility of the additions and this time won Landmarks’ approval. In the revised plans, a small portion of lower roof’s addition and an elevator bulkhead on the upper roof will be minimally visible from Houston Street and Broadway. According to Kushner’s architectural consultant Cas Stachelberg, the additions’ materials will include brick cladding and metal panels.

Chair Robert B. Tierney said that he thought the proposal’s visibility issues had been resolved by the revisions. Commissioner Michael Devonshire praised Kushner and PKSB Architects for their “willingness to exercise modesty and restraint.”

LPC: 295 Lafayette St., Manhattan (12-3229) (Dec. 20, 2011) (Architect: PKSB Architects).

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