SoHo hotel plan heard

Restaurateurs propose to build four-story hotel behind federal-style Broome Street building. On May 5, 2009, Landmarks viewed a presentation and heard testimony on proposed alterations to a property at 431 Broome Street in the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District. The applicants, Vincent Boitier and Pierre Casaux, owners of the nearby restaurant l’Orange Bleue, sought approval for a rooftop addition, a new four-story building in the rear yard, and a new storefront infill.

The plan’s architect, Thomas Tsue, testified that the renovation would add approximately 2,800 sq.ft. of area to the existing five-story federal- style building, with the intention of converting it into a hotel. The rooftop addition would consist of a one-story penthouse, setback 18 feet from the front property line, and an elevator bulkhead. The rear structure, which would touch the rear property line, would be connected to the main building by metal “breezeways,” and the area between the two buildings would create the effect of a courtyard, allowing light and air into the rear. The new storefront would feature large French windows with glass and wood over a brownstone base. The rear structure would not be visible from the street, but the rooftop addition would be visible from some angles.

The owners testified that the hotel would have the character of a bed and breakfast, something they felt was lacking in the neighborhood.

A representative of Manhattan Community Board 2 expressed support for the rooftop addition, but opposed the elimination of the storefront’s current configuration. Instead of constructing a “French door,” which, when fully opened, would leave a “gaping hole” in the facade, CB 2 suggested that the current storefront be restored. Christabel Gough, of The Society for the Architecture of the City, found that the rear structure evoked “the somber tradition” of rear tenements, substandard housing common in the 19th century. Nadezhda Williams, of the Historic Districts Council, found both the penthouse and the rear building inappropriate.

Commissioners were divided in their responses. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter expressed her fondness for back buildings, and dismissed the comparison to a tenement. Commissioner Fred Bland expressed concerns over egress and safety for the rear building. Commissioner Pablo Vengoechea found the back building “overwhelming in scale,” and urged its reduction to two or three stories. Chair Robert B. Tierney stated that because the rear building was not visible, he could find it appropriate.

Without enough consensus for a vote, Tierney tabled the hearing so that the architect could present a revised design.

LPC: 431 Broome St., Manhattan (COFA# 08-7774) (May 5, 2009).


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