New Building Approved Without Modifications for Vacant Lot

Rendering of 14 White Street in Tribeca, Manhattan. Image Credit: LPC

New development on triangular-shaped corner lot will employ passive house technology and have a facade clad with etched bronze panels. On March 7, 2017, the Landmarks Preservation Commission considered and approved a certificate of appropriateness application for 14 White Street in the Tribeca East Historic District. The site is currently occupied by a parking lot and is being developed by the firm Nava. The development will house ten residential units with retail use at the base.

Greenberg Traurig attorney Jay Segal testified that the project will require a variance from BSA, because it slightly exceeds as-of-right floor area and a streetwall will be lower than required by the C6-2A zoning.

Higgins Quasebarth consultant Cas Stachelberg said the vacant, triangular-shaped lot is a legacy of the southern extension of Sixth Avenue. Stachelberg said the project would utilize contemporary technology in much the same way cast-iron architecture did in the late 19th century. The project would utilize energy efficient passive house technology, and also contemporary materials and fabrication methods. He stated that, in addition to historic precedents, the design team had also looked at the Landmarks-approved project at nearby 100 Franklin Street in creating their proposal.

Architect Jordan Rogove, of DXA Studio, described the proposed seven-story building. The building will have a rainscreen system, behind angled patinated bronze panels creating a column and spandrel system. The milled panels will have a diamond pattern etched on them with acid. The panels on the ground floor and upper stories will be patinated to different degrees to visually distinguish the base from the residential levels, with darker “super-patinated” bronze at the ground floor retail level.  According to Rogove, the panels’ coating, which arrests the patination process, requires recoating every ten years with minimal maintenance. A plan is in place for the regular upkeep of the material.

Rendering of 14 White Street in Tribeca, Manhattan. Image Credit: LPC

In thinking about the largely cast-iron historic context of the site, Rogove explored advances in metal construction and fabrication technologies. While historic cast-iron sought to reproduce the look of stone or other forms of masonry, it is now a celebrated material in its own right. He said the proposal intended to play with technological advances of its time as the cast-iron buildings did in their era of construction. He noted that while cast-iron was a technology of mechanical repetition, automated technologies today allow for the customization architectural metals. He said the acid-etched pattern on the brass would capture some of the texture of cast-iron facades.

The designers looked at historic buildings to determine the ratio of solid material to transparent glass. The bronze columns and lintels will be thicker toward the base, and grow thinner on ascending stories, in an echo of store-and-loft structures and also out of concern for residents’ privacy. The building will have a contemporary cornice projecting ten inches, the maximum allowed by the Department of Buildings.

Rogove noted that the building’s “hyper-insulation” would far exceed code requirements. He also said the setback bulkhead would be minimally visible from street vantage points, and detailed steps were taken to minimize the rooftop mechanical equipment. The bulkheads would be composed of brick-patterned metal panels.

Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan stated that Manhattan Community Board 1 had issued a resolution in favor of the proposal, provided its massing was reduced, and it had clear glass and a bolder cornice. There was no public testimony at the hearing.

Chair Srinivasan called the proposal “quite a beautiful design,” and a perceptive analysis of the context of Tribeca. She said the plan as presented was “totally appropriate.” Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron praised the contemporary interpretation of cast-iron architecture, the continuance of technological experimentation, and the “feathering” of the facade surface, but felt some details could benefit from further refinement. Commissioner Fred Bland said that the proposal was one of the best initial presentations he had seen in his years at Landmarks, and offered a “robust” solution for the “oddball” vacant lot. Commissioner Michael Goldblum found the proposal “lovely,” “sensitive” and “elegant,” and commented that it was exciting to see passive house technology wedded to such a high level of architectural sophistication.

Commissioner Michael Devonshire said that the building would likely be designated individual City landmark some day in the future.

Commissioners voted unanimously to issue an unamended certificate of appropriateness for the project.

LPC: 14 White Street, Manhattan (16-6127) (March 7, 2017) (Architects: DXA Studio).

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

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.