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Iconic O'Toole Retooled

Claire Wilson writes for Oculus magazine about Perkins Eastman's LPC-approved restoration and redesign of the O'Toole building. http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/naylor/ARCQ0113/index.php?startid=30 [gallery]
The Tall Elephants in the Room Building additions that don't disappear into their surroundings shouldn't be done. By Aaron Betsky There seem to be a lot of elephants hiding in plain sight these days. Now that we are coming out of the five-year recession that stymied large-scale construction, cranes are swinging into action and developers are dusting off their laser-cut models and festive renderings. And not just for cities in far-off continents. Major cities in America will be the recipient of a spate of new, tall buildings, but some of them claim to be barely there. In Los Angeles, work will finally begin on the two triangular towers, which I wrote about more than a year ago. They will sit right behind the Minoru Yamasaki–designed Century Plaza hotel, a curved recipient of the axis the architect drew from his own triangular versions of the World Trade Center towers. That line was already interrupted by a hideous office block a number of years ago, and there were plans to tear down the hotel. Luckily, saner minds prevailed. The new, Pei Cobb Freed–designed behemoths are triangular, though also curved and with what look like rather fussy façades. Will these two slender exclamation points echo the original skyscrapers? Perhaps, though their form is too weak to make much of a point. They will also be so close to the hotel (which midcentury modern savior Marmol Radziner is renovating) that you wonder whether anybody except for dedicated exhibitionists will want to stay in the west-facing rooms that used to have views all the way to the Pacific. The $2 billion, 1.5 million square-foot redevelopment will also surround the hotel with a shopping mall, leaving it rather marooned. In New York, two similar towers, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, will rise on a new platform over the Pennsylvania Station rail yards. As in L.A., the whole development also includes a late modernist building, in this case the former home of the New York Daily News, which will be redesigned by REX. This one is a doozy, no less than 5.4 million square feet, much of it in the two 60-story towers. Those will be slicker than their L.A. counterparts, and they are shaved and angled in the manner that has become all the rage since computer technology enabled former students of deconstructivism to manipulate their grown-up towers. This twin will form the backdrop to the Farley Post Office Building, a now largely empty stone bunker that will someday perhaps be the new Pennsylvania Train Station. More recessive and more removed than the Century City towers, these might work, especially if they are joined by the forest of skyscrapers currently planned to sit even further west over the rail yards. Finally, in-between these two, there is the ongoing saga of Bertram Goldberg’s Prentice Hospital, which I have also previously written about. While we await the judicial procedure to run its course, it is interesting to me that all the images that argue for its preservation show it embedded in a mass of structure that makes me think that you might as well tear it down. Many of these images come from a competition last summer (the winner, by Cyril Marsollier and Wallo Villacorta, is particularly egregious), though Studio Gang has added its own variant, a tower on top of cloverleaf structure that—at least in the rendering—will float above it all. Looking at these designs, and then back at the Century Plaza, I am afraid I would say in both cases, and despite my support for preservation: Tear them down. Buildings are designed for a particular use, context, and culture. When those conditions change so much that the building can only continue to exist as a relic with impaired use, what’s the point? Either radically rethink the structure itself, as will happen with the Farley Building, or just start anew. Aaron Betsky is a regularly featured columnist whose stories appear on this website each week. His views and conclusions are not necessarily those of ARCHITECT magazine nor of the American Institute of Architects.
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Recent LPC Designation Hearings

Updates from the HDC blog about recent LPC designation hearings.
Two long-sought-after historic districts finally got public hearings at the Landmarks Preservation Commission yesterday.   The two districts, both of which community members have been advocating for years for consideration, were originally scheduled for an October hearing at LPC, but that meeting was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy.
  53 Harrison Street Since 1976, the Mud Lane Society for the Renaissance of Stapleton has been campaigning for the protection of their lovely Staten Island neighborhood. HDC has been actively working with the group and Stapleton residents since 2003 to help gain landmark designation for areas in the neighborhood (the St. Paul Avenue – Stapleton Heights HD was designated in 2004), and the Mud Lane Society was recently chosen to be one of 2013’s “Six to Celebrate”, so we were thrilled that this district was finally having a hearing. Hosting a wide range of late 19th-century architectural styles on a single block, the proposed Harrison Street Historic District has a hidden history which is easily overlooked but contributes greatly to its distinct sense of place.  Since its first development in the mid 19th century, the cul-de-sac has had only one teardown on the block.   All the buildings, regardless of cosmetic alterations, are the original structures on their site, a rare occurrence in our city.  Furthermore, the homes on Harrison Street were mostly built by local designers and builders, a fact which opens a window into Staten Island’s architectural and urban design history in an unexpected and unusual way. Twenty-four people testified on the district, twenty in favor of designation.   The vast majority of the supporters were residents or owners of the proposed district and owners of landmarked properties nearby on Staten Island.   The latter spoke of their good experiences owning a landmark and working with LPC. The opposition were largely concerned about the possibility of increased costs for maintenance and the infringement on their property rights. Halsey Street When HDC chose the first class of our “Six to Celebrate” in 2011, placing Bedford-Stuyvesant on that list was an obvious choice, given the architectural quality of the neighborhood, the significance of its history to New York City and the strength of its community. The approximately 800 buildings in the proposed Bedford Historic District are primarily well-preserved rowhouses and small apartment buildings from the last quarter of the 19th century.  Prominent Brooklyn architects such as Montrose Morris and Isaac D. Reynolds designed many of the blocks.  In addition to its late-19th century streetscapes, Bedford-Stuyvesant is noted for being the home to one of the nation’s largest and best-known African-American and Caribbean-American communities throughout most of the 20th century and into today. Stuyvesant Heights was designated in 1971, and an extension to the district was heard in 1993.  Revived interest in landmarking got the extension a second hearing in 2011 and a positive vote on the district is expected soon.  The Bedford community, well informed about landmarking thanks to the tireless work of Bedford-Stuyvesant Society for Historic Preservation, jumped in line to be next. Seeing the crowd who attended the Bedford hearing, LPC commissioner Elizabeth Ryan exclaimed, “Quite the turn out!”. By our count, thirty-six people testified, and twenty-eight of them supported the district, including Councilmember Al Vann, a representative from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s office, Brooklyn Community Board 3, and numerous residents.  Neighborhood residents strongly stated their case for designation, saying it would help protect their community from those who would destroy it through unregulated profit and that a historic district designation would honor the commitment of the longtime residents who stewarded the neighborhood through hard times. Opponents of the designation mostly complained about the process – that the hearing was held in Manhattan during business hours rather than in the neighborhood in the evening and their perceived lack of education and outreach. The latter claim that was strongly disputed by ourselves and others (such as the district manager of Community Board 3), citing  the three community meetings and two informational sessions held by the LPC (to say nothing of the numerous public, community and block association meetings that we have spoken at over the past three years). For more details on the hearing, see today’s article by David Dunlap in The New York Times: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/16/in-effort-to-preserve-bedford-stuyvesant-some-ask-for-whom No decision was made and the record for both of these historic districts was left open for thirty days – please submit statements to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Ada Louise Huxtable

Ada Louise Huxtable, Doyenne of Architecture Criticism, Dies at 91

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The legend on her pillow: "Ada Louise Huxtable already doesn't like it" (a caption from a New Yorker cartoon). The world of architecture is in mourning. Ada Louise Huxtable, the Pulitzer Prize-winning, high spirited, fiercely opinionated architecture critic, revered by architecture historians and feared by developers, was the pioneer who brought serious, informed architecture criticism to daily newspapers. Her writing was invariably erudite, lucid and witty. The few times when she graciously conversed with me, in writing or in person, I felt I as though I had been touched by royalty. At the time of her death today at the age of 91, she was architecture critic for the Wall Street Journal. She wrote until the end with the verve, feistiness and exhaustive command of the facts of someone one-third her age. Take her final piece for the WSJ, published early last month, about the New York Public Library's plans to renovate and restructure its flagship 42nd Street facility (or, as she put it, "to undertake its own destruction"). She delivered a detailed analysis of why, in her estimation, the library's stacks should not be demolished---arguing her case not just on historic preservation grounds, but also on engineering grounds:
What no one seems to have noticed, or mentioned, is that the stacks are the structural support of the reading room. They literally hold it up....Restoration and retrofitting would be easier and cheaper than supporting the reading room with the enormously complex and expensive engineering needed during demolition and reconstruction.
What's more, she allowed herself the rare luxury of complaining in print (at some length) about the runaround she had gotten after asking library officials to release "schematic studies of how the vacated space would be used....I have been patient and cooperative, but I believe I have waited long enough." What she didn't mention was that her exasperation may have been heightened by a consciousness that her own time was running out. It is probably no coincidence that two weeks after Ada Louise's heated critique, the Library released more information about its construction plans. In her NY Times report on this, Robin Pogrebin tipped her hat to Huxtable by quoting her complaint in the the rival newspaper about the long-time dearth of information. The Library claimed that "the designs were not refined until now," Pogrebin reported. I hope that both the online editions of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times (where Ada Louise wrote with universally admired distinction from 1963 to 1982) will link to highlights from among her many articles, along with an appreciative recap of her many achievements. (The Times has just posted its detailed obituary.) The tributes from the art and architecture critics who are her progeny are already pouring in.
January 7, 2013 8:29 PM | Permalink | ShareThis
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Post Sandy Assistance

Dear Clients, Business Associates, and Friends:   I am writing with the hope that you and your families are safe and dry, and that power has been restored to your homes and offices after our two most recent storms.  Our offices were without power for a week, a minor inconvenience compared to what many suffered throughout our region.  We are lucky enough to be back up and running, and we remain on call to help with any recovery effort you may require at this time.  Our architects, staff, and network of trusted and reliable contractors and trade professionals are available to assist you with any emergency property assessments and repairs resulting from the strong winds and flooding sustained in our area, including façade damage, roof damage, or any other building related issues that you may be faced with at this time.  If we can be of any assistance, please let us know. We can be reached at our offices, (212) 995-2464 or send email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Sincerely,  Scott Henson 
August 08, 2012 01:30PM   1155-1205 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint Nearly all of Brooklyn’s large manufacturers have left the borough, chasing locations with less regulation, and cheaper labor and real estate. Sometimes, the massive warehouses and factories they leave behind are renovated into luxury apartments, as will be the case at the former Domino Sugar factory. But, according to the New York Times, there is a flowering niche manufacturing industry in Brooklyn that is keeping some of these forgotten buildings in their original industrial intent. The scale of the manufacturing in Brooklyn’s industrial buildings has become smaller and more specialized. One building, at 1205 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, has been divided into more than a dozen micro-factories, producing everything from specialty metal and wood pieces to artisanal glass. The small scale gives entrepreneurs an affordable alternative to outsourcing their product’s manufacture, keeping production costs low. “We think this is the future of urban manufacturing,” Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center CEO Brian Coleman, said. “There is a highly skilled work force making products for local consumption.” However these tiny factories are not employing anywhere near the number of New Yorkers the traditional factories employed. In 2011 Brooklyn businesses averaged 11.2 workers per business in 2011. The average in 2000 was 16.8 workers. [NYT] – Christopher Cameron Go to THE REAL DEAL
May 01, 2012 04:30PM By Katherine Clarke
From left: City Council member Leroy Comrie, who chairs the City Council's land use committee, Landmarks Preservation Commission Chairman Robert Tierney and Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council
The New York City Council is set to review a package of 10 bills relating to the workings of the Landmarks Preservation Commission tomorrow morning, according to the council’s website, some of which have garnered significant support from the Real Estate Board of New York but elicited concern from preservation groups. A few of the bills seek to impose a timeline on the LPC’s deliberation of potential landmarks and historic districts, including one that introduces a time limit of 180 days for LPC to respond to requests for evaluation and another that institutes a fixed deadline of 33 months for landmark and historic district designations. Detractors such as Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council said the restrictions are “almost ensured to create paralysis at the agency.” It’s not all bad, the Historic Districts Council said. If passed, three of the bills would empower LPC to intercede in cases where unused Department of Buildings permits are still active on landmark buildings and require better monitoring of construction near landmarked buildings — both bills supported by the Historic Districts Council. But other bills, which address the timeline for designation, mandate a publicly accessible online database of requests for evaluation and allow for replacement materials on landmark buildings to be those present at time of designation, have caused some discontent within the preservationist community. “If these bills are adopted in tandem as written, they would risk overwhelming the LPC’s scant resources and could result in thousands of potential buildings in dozens of historic districts being rejected,” Bankoff said in an email blast to members of the Historic Districts Council yesterday. He argued that the success of the bills “would result in thousands of buildings being permanently prevented from becoming landmarks based on a mandated schedule rather than merit.” A spokesperson for the Real Estate Board of New York, which supports a selection of the bills, argued that the proposals, including one which mandates the City Planning Commission to analyze the potential economic impact of designation on the development potential of proposed landmarks, are necessary in order to prevent the LPC from becoming a tool for preservationists in regards to planning. Preservationists are inclined to use the bill to prevent new development in prized areas, he said, as opposed to protecting existing beauty or history. “The landmarks laws are in place to protect cultural heritage, but we’ve been seeing [the landmarking] of properties of questionable merit,” said Michael Slattery, a senior vice president at REBNY, referencing the recent designation of an “unexceptional” gas station at West Houston and Lafayette streets. “[The laws] are being exploited by the preservationist community. It seems clear to us that planning agendas have been directing [the activities of Landmarks.]” In a statement issued earlier this month to the New York Post, Landmarks spokesperson Elisabeth de Bourbon defended the move to designate the gas station: “As the gateway to Soho, West Houston Street was determined to be so critical to its character that the vacant lots there… ought to be under [LPC's] purview,” she said. The replacement materials bill proposes revoking an LPC requirement stipulating that building owners making changes to their properties use historically appropriate materials even when those materials were not in place at the time the owner purchased the building. It has been particular contentious, sources said. Preservationists argue it undermines the basic benefit of LPC oversight in helping to gradually return areas to their historic condition, while building owners and some members of REBNY contend that the provision currently in place makes it too costly for owners to renovate or alter their properties. While De Bourbon declined to comment on the bills pre-hearing, she said the commission would discuss the merits of the legislation at tomorrow’s event. Meanwhile, City Council member Leroy Comrie, who chairs the Council’s land use committee, did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
 
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Penney shines image with Lafayette lease

Last Updated: 12:24 PM, May 2, 2012 Posted: 11:50 PM, May 1, 2012   Lois Weiss BETWEEN THE BRICKS: EXCLUSIVE JCPenney just got a fair and square deal of its own with a lease for all 130,000 square feet of 200 Lafayette St. at Broome Street. The move is designed to attract a hip workforce and continue the corporate culture shake-up under relatively new CEO and former Apple executive Ron Johnson. “They will build out a spectacular rooftop deck,” said our SoHo spy. The fate of the 11,500-square-foot retail space being marketed by Susan Kurland of CBRE is still under discussion. A CapitalOne branch is in the building, which is otherwise vacant and being renovated. Kurland did not return calls for comment, although she worked on the office deal along with leasing agents David Falk, Jason Greenstein and Daniel Levine of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, who also declined comment through a spokeswoman. The SoHo building was snapped up by Jared Kushner and CIM Group in January for $50 million from John Zaccaro, who was the husband of the late vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro. Marketing brochures say the new owners are doling out $30 million more to upgrade every corner of the seven-story building and its numerous arched windows. Kushner and CIM did not return calls for comment, and JCP declined comment via e-mail. While others saw residential condos, Kushner, from his experience with the nearby Puck Building, had an eye on renovating the loft building and renting updated offices to the techies being drawn to Midtown South. Indeed, Falk, who spoke at Bisnow’s Silicon Alley Real Estate Summit yesterday without revealing the tenant, said they were conducting about seven space tours a week before a lease went out for the entire building. Sources said the fully signed 15-year lease took just 45 days to complete and had an asking rent of about $68 a square foot. The net effective rent will be less as Penney will be responsible for all expenses, including property taxes that are running now at about $280,000 a year. Among the companies that kicked the sandy-colored bricks were Restoration Hardware, Facebook, Armani and ad agency Droga5, which has 23,000 square feet at 400 Lafayette St. and is growing rapidly. Penney was headquartered in New York from 1914 until they fled to Dallas in 1987, and sold their 1.5 million square-foot tower at 1301 Sixth Ave. Go to New York Post  
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Best-Kept Homes

Taking Guardianship of a Historic Home

By Iyna Bort Caruso for Sotheby's International Realty Entering a home from a bygone era is like crossing a threshold in time. “Historic residences are profound works of both art and craft,” says Katherine Malone-France, director of outreach, education and support at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. “They tell us a lot about ourselves, what people liked, what was important to them and how their lives were structured.” Across the board and around the globe, buyers have long been drawn to the pleasures of owning a moment in time. Not every older home can measure up. Only those deemed to have historical, cultural or aesthetic value are eligible for special designation. That “value” can be based on architecture, of course, but it can also be tied to an event associated with the home or to an individual who once lived there. More than anything, owners of historic homes buy for love. Love of the artisanship, architectural details and even the quirks. Still, it’s a smart investment. A landmark plaque on a residence increases property value. It assures buyers the qualities that attracted them to the home in the first place will endure over time. What’s more, “historic homes are incredibly sturdy and solidly built,” says Malone-France. “They have so many more hand-driven fasteners, they contain woods that are no longer available to us but were specifically selected because of their strength and properties for different elements, whether as rafters or floor joists. They were built to breath, to adapt, to last.” Yes, there are some unconventional layouts in older homes and, yes, owners must follow certain prescribed guidelines when making changes or improvements. That comes with the territory. Preservation guidelines are intended to safeguard character-defining elements and protect against inappropriate alterations. Owners are tasked with keeping the structure in good repair and obtaining prior approval before performing work. Based on the governing body, the guidelines can be as specific as the choice of paint colors and the selection of foliage. Would-be buyers are sometimes intimidated by the prospect, feeling they may be required to spend exorbitantly on the maintenance of a landmarked home. Not so, says Malone-France. “The best preservation work is often the most economical. You basically strengthen the places that need to be strengthened and make sure the exterior envelope is solid. It doesn’t have to be a tremendously expensive or invasive process.” Historical preservation organizations are a good source for architect, contractor and artisan referrals. Eran Chen is the founder and creative director of ODA–Architecture in New York, a firm with an extensive portfolio of historic projects. He considers the city’s preservation commission a partner in the design. The firm worked on a Union Square condominium building discovered to have been designed for Tiffany & Company in the late 19th century. Encased—and forgotten—behind brick walls were beautiful cast-iron arches. That finding “changed everything” about the development of the project, Chen says. “There’s always a lot of discovery,” he says. “The process is full of surprises. In some old structures, there are really treasures hidden in the walls and in the floors.” There are historic homes and then there are homes located in historic districts like the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego, Calif., and the French Quarter of New Orleans, La. In New York City alone, there are dozens of historic districts. Louise Beit of Sotheby’s International Realty in New York frequently handles properties with landmark designation. The homes are typically located on gracious, tree-lined streets. Many were designed by prominent architects of the 1920s. “They are a fabulous investment,” Beit says. “They go up in value exponentially.” While buyers don’t necessarily seek out landmarked properties, she says they consider it a bonus when a home they love happens to be designated as one. It means that a governing entity, in this case the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, is looking out for the property’s—and neighborhood’s—best long-term interests. “Buyers can be assured the residence will always be saleable and in excellent architectural and aesthetic taste.” Most countries have programs intended to protect buildings of architectural or historic distinction. Like the U.S., homes of exceptional interest in Mexico, for instance, have registries at the federal, state and local municipal levels. Residences in historic districts such as Mexico City’s downtown Zócalo neighborhood, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mérida and Querétaro are in especially high demand, says Graciela Zamudio Conde of Guadalajara Sotheby’s International Realty in Mexico. Read more... http://online.wsj.com/ad/article/sir-insights?WC=HPInsThumb