Revisions to Selldorf-Designed Building Insufficient to Win Approval

Corner lot at 42 Crosby Street. Credit: Google.

Corner lot at 42 Crosby Street. Credit: Google.

Revised plan included a higher street wall, a reduced setback tower, and alterations to the facade design. On February 12, 2013, the Landmarks Preservation Commission considered a revised proposal for a new building on a corner lot at 42 Crosby Street in the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District. A parking lot and garage currently occupy the site. Landmarks initially considered a plan for the site on December 11, 2012.

The original proposal called for a new building rising to 71 feet at the street wall, matching the adjacent cornice lines, with an additional four-story tower set back from the front facades. The facade would be composed primarily of molded aluminum and projecting glass windows. Commissioners were split on the appropriateness of the massing, and some asked that design details be further refined. No vote was taken on the original proposal.

Architect Annabelle Selldorf, Principal of Selldorf Architects, presented the revised plan at the February 12th meeting, and characterized the changes as “subtle but significant.” The cornice line of the new building’s base would be raised six feet, separating it from the neighboring structures and creating a stronger presence at the corner. The tower would no longer rest on the rear lot lines of the lower structure, reading more clearly as a distinct element. The facade design also changed, with columns brought closer together and more vertical, rectangular windows introduced. Selldorf said the new street wall would continue the district’s “rhythm of columnar elements.” A more articulated cornice than in the previous proposal was also presented. The overall height of the building would be two feet above that of the previous proposal. In response to the Commissioners questions, Selldorf said the building’s envelope was appropriate because there are “plenty of divergent massings all around the neighborhood.”

On Crosby Street, a double-bay, 16-foot-wide recessed section would separate the aluminum building from the adjacent brick structure. The recessed portion would have a garage entrance at the ground floor. The upper stories would house the windows to the residences’ master bedrooms.

Commissioner Fred Bland found that the proposal had “improved dramatically,” but still wasn’t entirely comfortable with the massing and suggested the applicants lower the height of the tower by one story. Bland also recommended that the double-hung windows be replaced with panel windows. Commissioner Libby Ryan concurred, calling the proportions “too atypical” for the district. Ryan suggested making the base of the building one story taller and the tower one story shorter. Commissioner Joan Gerner objected to the scale of the project and also found the recessed portion “strange” and of dubious appropriateness. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter said she would like to see the height of the base raised even further, though praised the revisions as being “much more SoHo.” Commissioner Roberta Washington thought the upper portions of the structure should not be visible from the street. Commissioner Michael Devonshire found that there was “just something a little bit too much about this mass,” but, in general, determined that the project would enhance the district, and that he could vote to approve it as presented.

Chair Robert B. Tierney found insufficient consensus among the Commissioners to call a vote and asked the applicants to further revise the plan and return to Landmarks at a later date. Tierney praised the “elegance” and “thoughtfulness” of the proposal, but agreed that the base needed to be raised or the tower lowered.

LPC: 42 Crosby Street, Manhattan (13-6801) (Feb. 12, 2013) (Architect: Selldorf Architects).

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