Revised Development Proposal Approved for Vacant Corner Lot

Rendering of 363 Lafayette Street in Manhattan. Image Credit: LPC.

Rendering of 363 Lafayette Street in Manhattan. Image Credit: LPC.

Applicants rescinded proposed double-height rectangular form for a more subtle series of setbacks, and reduced size of windows to bring it into a scale more contextual with the neighborhood. On August 2, 2016, the Landmarks Preservation Commission considered and approved a revised proposal to construct a new ten-story building at 363 Lafayette Street in the NoHo Historic District Extension. The through-block lot also faces Bond and Great Jones Streets. The lot is currently vacant, and adjoins a new building in construction along Great Jones Street and a residential building facing Bond Street.

On July 12, Landmarks held a public hearing on a proposal by the applicants. The applicants presented a contemporary building, with a series of setbacks creating a composition of double-height rectangular forms. The building would be faced in off-white brick with terra cotta ornaments, and metal-framed windows.  It was argued that the proposed building reflected the eccentricity of the lot, created by the extension of Lafayette Avenue through existing blocks in the 1890s. The building would rise to a total of 140 feet, including bulkheads, near the corner of Great Jones and Lafayette Streets, while the southern portion of the site would be occupied by a one-story structure extending to Bond Street.

Residents of the adjoining building at 20 Bond Street endorsed the proposal, and commended the applicants for preserving the access of light and air to the co-op. Preservationists organizations testified that the building was not appropriate as proposed, and Manhattan Community Board 2 asked for modifications to the plan.

As with the prior proposal, the bulk of the massing would be sited on the northern portion of the odd-shaped lot. A one-story extension would reach to Bond Street on the south. Consultant Elise Quasebarth, of Higgins Quasebarth and Partners, explained that the revised plan reflected the comments of Commissioners, particularly concerns about scale, and that the proposal did not adequately address the corner condition. Architect Morris Adjmi presented the details of the modified design.

The double-height setbacks were eliminated, and the building would have a six-story streetwall presence at Lafayette and Great Jones Streets. The corner would be strengthened with a terra cotta pillar. On Lafayette, much smaller setbacks than those initially proposed, at one-story intervals would “fan out” from the corner, with the setbacks widening as they reached south. Because of the curved condition of Lafayette, a sliver of a stepped face would be visible when looking north toward Great Jones, recalling the cut-through history of the lot. Windows would be made smaller, increasing the proportion of masonry to glazing, a particular concern of Community Board 2. The building would retain the ornamental bands and projecting terra cotta fins of the previous proposal.  The design of the ground-floor block-extending storefront would now be consistent, with one continuous design.

Adjmi commented that the believed the project had been made better by the criticisms of the commission, and that this was an instance where the “process makes the project better.”

Commissioner Fred Bland said the revisions led to the proposal coming together in a more “lyrical” way, and that “small but critically important changes” had more for a thoroughly appropriate project for the site and the district. Commissioner Jeanne Lutfy also found the plan to be “stronger,” and to “feels less bulky.” Commissioner Michael Devonshire said that Adjmi had resolved the issues with the previous plan in a “beautiful” manner.

Commissioner Michael Goldblum agreed that that plan was appropriate, but lamented that some “conceptual rigor” had been lost in the revised proposal.

Landmarks Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan stated that she had been concerned that requiring the applicants to respond to the comments of multiple Commissioners could lead to a compromised design, but that Adjmi had “mastered” the Commission’s concerns, and the revised building would be a “great addition to the neighborhood.”

Commissioners voted unanimously to award a Certificate of Appropriateness to revised proposal.

LPC: 363 Lafayette Street, Manhattan (18-6969) (Aug. 2, 2016) (Architects: Morris Adjmi Architects).

By:  Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law)

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