Adjmi-designed plan to redevelop former movie theater wins approval after schemes stalled under previous ownership. The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to approve a proposal for the renovation of the existing building and the addition of three stories to 70 Henry Street in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. The building was constructed in 1895, for use as a butcher shop, and has gone through multiple alterations including the creation of a chamfered corner entrance for a mid-twentieth century restaurant use. Until recently, and for the previous four decades, the site was home to the Brooklyn Heights Cinema. The redeveloped building would be residential, with ground floor commercial uses.
Landmarks considered proposals for the site in 2012 and 2013, which would have retained the cinema use, but no certificate of appropriateness was ever issued. The property has since changed ownership.
The proposal was presented by architect Morris Adjmi, and consultant Ward Dennis, of Higgins Quasebarth. Three stories would be added to the 17-foot-tall building, bringing it to a total height of 50 feet. Paint would be removed from the historic building, exposing the remaining original red Philadelphia brick. The new stories would be clad in in a lighter yellowish brick, intended to provide a contrast to the original fabric while fitting within the historic district. Windows that were infilled for the cinema use would have glazing reinstalled. The upper stories would have openings of the same size as those on the ground floor, turned on their side in a horizontal pattern reminiscent of brick coursing. Projecting windows on both the upper stories and the ground floor, a feature which Ward Dennis said drew from the original projecting storefronts of the butcher shop.
The double-height single-story original structure would be converted into two separate floors. Two course original brick adjoining the windows would be removed to enlarge the existing windows for residential use on the second floor. The removed brick would be salvaged and used to rebuild a pier that had been lost. A corbel cornice and a cast-iron pier would also be rebuilt. An alleyway on Orange Street would be filled in for the development, indented at the street wall to differentiate the new material.
Public testimony came from Judy Stanton of the Brooklyn Heights Association, who criticized the removal of historic brick, and said the original seventeen-foot building was subsumed by the proposed additions and the “over-scaled commercial facade.”
Landmarks Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan stated that Brooklyn Community Board 2 had issued a resolution in support of the project.
Commissioner and Brooklyn Heights resident Fred Bland found the plan appropriate, finding it well suited to the district and respectful of the building’s remaining historic fabric, and called the proposal “an elegant way to finally deal with this building.” Bland asked that applicants work with staff to refine color of the brick on the new stories to ensure it adequately contrasted with the original brick, that a railing at the top of the building was not too reflective, and that the cast-iron pillar’s proportions were historically accurate. Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron commended the projecting window system, while Commissioner Michael found the project a good way of saving “a troubled structure.”
Chair Srinivasan, who found the building appropriate in massing, design, and form, led a unanimous vote to approve the project, with language taking into account Commissioner Bland’s suggestions.
LPC: 70 Henry Street, Brooklyn (17-0729) (June 16, 2015) (Architect: Morris Adjmi Architects).