Last Updated: 12:24 PM, May 2, 2012
Posted: 11:50 PM, May 1, 2012
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
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.
Gentrification, or at the very least prettification, has reshaped block after block in Harlem, but it has not fully arrived at East 126th Street between Madison and Park Avenues.
There, handsome rows of century-and-a-half-old brownstones line the north and south sides of the street, just as they do one block west, on a pristine tree-lined stretch where homeowners keep polished doorknobs and spotless front stoops.
But along East 126th Street, vacant buildings are interspersed among the inhabited ones.
Their windows are boarded up or bricked over with cinder blocks. Chicken wire encircles a couple of the front stoops. One brownstone is fronted by ribbons of razor wire, though neighbors said people still lived there legally, they just went in through the back.
In the middle of the block, on the south side, sits No. 58, scrawled over with graffiti, stricken with a caving roof and collapsing floors, and deemed structurally unsound. The building is slated for demolition this month by the city, despite a nearby resident’s efforts to buy it and neighbors’ laments that the seamless row of houses will be punched through with a gap-tooth hole.
“Historical buildings should be saved,” said Michael Henry Adams, an architectural historian and the author of “Harlem: Lost and Found.”
“If a property is more valuable with its historic resources intact,” he said, “why would you let it get to a state where the only recourse is to demolish it?”
No. 58 has not been designated a city landmark, but, according to Mr. Adams, it has the potential to be, sitting on a brownstone block comparable to others with historical designations. It is also about a block and half from the former home of the poet Langston Hughes, 20 East 127th Street, which is a city landmark.
Despite a strong overall community sentiment that city money should go to restoring such buildings before they degenerate and become structurally dangerous, the city says it is not in the business of rescuing unsound, privately owned buildings.
“It’s always the private property owner’s responsibility to maintain the property,” said Eric Bederman, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which is overseeing the demolition. “It is a critical part of what being a responsible owner is about.”
Property records show a troubled financial history for No. 58, which, according to Mr. Adams, was most likely built in the late 1860s for upper middle class whites. It was advertised for a sheriff’s sale in 1970, acquired by the city in 1980 through a tax foreclosure, sold at public auction two years later, and in 2006, was bought for $950,000 by a corporation called Parade Place LLC, of Brooklyn. Messages left with Saadia Shapiro, who is listed in public records as the corporation’s managing member, were not returned.
One neighbor, Derrick Taitt, who owns a brownstone on the north side of the street, said that No. 58 had sat empty for over two decades. In recent years, neighbors began calling the city’s 311 line as conditions deteriorated. Debris was falling. The roof was collapsing. Squatters were sneaking in and out of a large hole in the street level wall.
“It’s gotten worse in the last eight or nine months; street dwellers have been coming in,” said Michael Peterson, 44, who lives with his family in the top floor of No. 56, next door. “All of us collectively have been complaining.”
The brownstone on the other side of Mr. Peterson’s building is also vacant, which is troubling to him and his neighbors. No. 52-54, a double-wide, has long been a gathering point for vagrants, drug users and prostitutes, Mr. Peterson said. He and other neighbors recently bought supplies from a hardware shop and hammered together a wooden barrier with nails sticking out of the top to block the basement stairwell. They also lined the front fence with chicken wire.
“Prior to the sealing, it was really bad,” he said. “But we shouldn’t have to do that.” (According to property records, the building is owned by the William M. James Housing Development Fund Corp. Reached by phone, Mr. James, who is 96 and a former minister at Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church, across the street, said that there were plans to convert the building into a seniors’ center).
But though the buildings on either side have vexed Mr. Peterson, he does not want to see them torn down. “It’s just going to bring in more issues,” he said.
Mr. Taitt, who said he was on the board of the Community Association of the East Harlem Triangle, said he had tried repeatedly to contact the owner of No. 58 to make offers on the place, sending certified letters that got no reply.
“Another neighbor said, ‘Why don’t we get together and buy it?’ ” Mr. Taitt said. “The owner doesn’t want to talk.”
After inspections by the city departments of housing and buildings found further problems at No. 58 — a teetering rear brick wall, more roof cave-ins, a collapsed floor — they issued a declaration to demolish in late March. A spokesman for the housing department said that demolition work would most likely begin in two weeks, and that the property owner would be billed.
Neighbors suspect, warily, that after the building is torn down, a bland, boxlike structure will rise in its place: the property owners may build whatever they please, so long as they comply with zoning requirements and the building code.
Already, neighbors are girding for the loss.
“These buildings have personality,” said E. Wayne Tyree, 70, a poet who lives nearby. “This will change the whole beauty of the thing.”
Jack Begg contributed reporting.
A version of this article appeared in print on April 16, 2012, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: On Block in Harlem, Neighbors’ Push for Restoration Will End in Demolition.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s campus at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Fla.—the largest single collection of Wright buildings in the world—is just one of a baker’s dozen of new National Historic Landmarks designated earlier this week by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
Other architecturally significant structures that made the distinguished list include the Romanesque Revival-styleGardner Earl Memorial Chapel and Crematorium in Troy, N.Y., and the Braddock Carnegie Library in Braddock, Penn., which is the oldest intact library funded by Andrew Carnegie.
Two colonial-era projects in Virginia also made the cut. St. Peter’s Parish Church in New Kent County, Va., exemplifiesearly 18th-century brick architecture in the Chesapeake Region. Eyre Hall in Northampton County, Va.—“a rare vernacular architectural ensemble and rural landscape of the Colonial and early Federal periods,” according to the Interior Department’s press release—was landmarked for its historical significance as a “significant physical remnant of Chesapeake society” whose economic and social reliance was based on slavery.
The National Historic Landmark program was established in 1935 and is administered by the National Park Service. “These new listings will join approximately 2,500 other sites in the National Historic Landmark Program,” National Park Service director Jonathan B. Jarvis says. “These places not only showcase our rich and complex history—from prehistoric time right up to the modern era—but they help drive tourism and boost local economies.”
The 13 new National Historic Landmarks
Montauk Point Lighthouse (Long Island, N.Y.)
Town Hall (New York, N.Y.)
Destroyer escort USS Slater (Albany, N.Y.)
Gardner Earl Memorial Chapel and Crematorium (Troy, N.Y.)
Braddock Carnegie Library (Braddock, Pa.)
Fort Apache and Theodore Roosevelt School (Fort Apache, Ariz.)
Deer Medicine Rocks (Rosebud County, Mont.)
Akima Pinšiwa Awiiki (Fort Wayne, Ind.)
St. Peter’s Parish Church (New Kent County, Va.)
Eyre Hall (Northampton County, Va.)
Meadow Brook Hall (Rochester, Mich.)
The campus of Florida Southern College (Lakeland, Fla.)
The Carrizo Plain Archeological District (San Luis Obispo County, Calif.)
Contact: Adam Fetcher, (DOI) 202-208-6416
David Barna, (NPS) 202-208-6843
Hampton Tucker, (NPS) 202- 354-2067
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced $46.9 million in historic preservation grants to the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Territories, and three affiliated Pacific island states. The grants will enable the states to preserve and protect our nation’s historic sites without expending tax dollars.
“National Preservation Grants invest revenue from oil and gas development into telling the story of America by enabling the people of each state and territory the opportunity to preserve the places that are unique to their heritage,” Secretary Salazar said. “These grants leverage private investments in historic preservation activities and help spur tourism, create jobs, and build pride in communities across the nation.”
The Historic Preservation Fund is supported by revenue from federal oil leases on the Outer Continental Shelf. The National Park Service administers the fund and uses the majority of appropriated funds to distribute matching grants to State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers.
“Throughout the country, historic preservation fund grants and other federal historic preservation programs help sustain and revitalize communities,” Director of the National Park Service Jonathan B. Jarvis said. “Historic preservation promotes heritage tourism and can transform under-utilized and often-vacant historic buildings into revenue-generators for local economies. The National Park Service is honored to be invited into so many communities and is proud to assist in saving and sharing history.”
States officials use the grants to fund preservation projects, such as survey and inventory, National Register nominations, preservation education, architectural planning, historic structure reports, community preservation plans, and bricks-and-mortar repair to buildings.
Grants and programs funded by the HPF encourage private and nonfederal investment in historic preservation efforts nationwide. Recent achievements of the HPF can be found in its annual report at http://www.nps.gov/history/hps/hpg/downloads/2011_HPF_Report.pdf
For more information on the Historic Preservation Fund, please visit: http://www.nps.gov/history/hps/hpg/index.htm
Amounts made available to each jurisdiction are listed below.
FISCAL YEAR 2012
HISTORIC PRESERVATION FUND APPORTIONMENT TO STATES
Under Public Law 112-74
Whole Foods Market Inc. faces a series of City Council votes starting next week to win final approval for construction of a 52,000-square-foot supermarket next to a 140-year-old landmark in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Eric Haugesag for The Wall Street JournalThe Coignet building today next to the planned Whole Foods grocery site
The new store is planned to wrap around two sides of the vacant Coignet building, the city's earliest known concrete building, at the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street. After expected council approvals, the grocery chain would be allowed within five feet of the old building and wants to have its first Brooklyn store open in 2013.
Built in 1872 for the New York & Long Island Coignet Stone Co., the 2½-story building is the sole survivor of a five-acre industrial park built along the Gowanus Canal in the early 1870s.
The elegant Italianite mansion provided office space for Coignet and subsequent companies, including its longest-running tenant, the Brooklyn Improvement Co., from which Coignet leased the land for its stone works.
"It's a lonely little building," said Jennifer Gardner, a researcher at the Gowanus Institute, a local think tank. "To some degree, the plans for that site will limit the opportunity for the [Coignet] building, but also provides a potential draw for people to see it and appreciate it in a different way."
The building received city landmark status in 2006. Two City Council panels overseeing landmarks and planning will vote next week on whether to reduce the Coignet building's lot size to about 1,720 square feet from 6,250 square feet, a measure that's already been passed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. If approved, a full City Council vote on the measure is slated for April 18.
Some residents and preservationists still fear the landmark building will lose its prominence as it is enveloped by the store,
Marlene Donnelly, Friends & Residents of Greater GowanusAn undated rendering of the Coignet building in Gowanus
"It's strange to be shrinking a landmark site; it allows any site to be looked at as a development," said Nadezhda Williams of the Historic Districts Council, a preservation organization lobbying for rejection of the variance. "We need something more sympathetic, that doesn't take away its prominence."
Ms. Williams and others point to the Fairway supermarket in Red Hook—which integrated unlandmarked Civil War-era warehouses into its design—as a model for treatment of the Coignet. The Brooklyn Navy Yard faces a related issue with its recent acquisition of Admiral's Row, which abuts the parcel designated for a 74,000-square-foot supermarket.
Whole Foods doesn't own the Coignet building, but the food retailer plans to "give it a facelift" approved by the landmarks commission, said company spokesman Michael Sinatra. The grocer has no plans to rehab the interior or to use the historic building, whose owner, Richard Kowalski, couldn't be reached.
Designed by William Field & Son, the curious building was a showcase for Beton Coignet, a new concrete developed in France by François Coignet in the 1850s.
The Brooklyn mansion was built of the very material it championed and displayed various architectural features and ornament cast from molds, showing that concrete could replicate the stone-and-chisel method of old.
"It was definitely an advertisement [for the company]. They put it on the most visible position on the lot," said Matthew Postal, a landmarks commission researcher who studied the Coignet building, "This is a building that was testing a new technology; it would be an engineering landmark."
Noteworthy commissions using the new building material included portions of St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cleft Ridge Span in Prospect Park, the oldest such arch in the country. Coignet also supplied concrete for new residential developments, simultaneously rising to prominence with the Brooklyn Improvement Co., founded by Edwin Clark Litchfield.
Indeed, the Coignet stone works was the impetus for Mr. Litchfield to reactivate the Gowanus creek as a working waterway for transport of raw and finished materials.
"It was a fully integrated site. One can only imagine the scale of that operation when it was fully activated," said Gregory Dietrich, a preservation consultant who is surveying the site for possible inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
Despite its successes, the Coignet company filed for bankruptcy in 1873 and the factory closed in 1882.
The Coignet building housed the offices of Mr. Litchfield's company until 1957 and a variety of tenants until its final occupants left in the mid-1970s.
"It's quite lovely and by any objective standards it represents an important architectural element in the Gowanus corridor that resonates with neighbors," said Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board Six, which includes Gowanus and which has supported the new Whole Foods store.
"It is so highly distinctive I could see it easily being a museum—it has such an interesting story," Mr. Dietrich said. "It's a diamond in the rough."
A version of this article appeared March 29, 2012, on page A24 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Market Nears A Landmark.
GOSHEN, N.Y. — As Modernist buildings reach middle age, many of the stark structures that once represented the architectural vanguard are showing signs of wear, setting off debates around the country between preservationists, who see them as historic landmarks, and the many people who just see them as eyesores.
The conflict has come in recent months to this quaint village 60 miles north of New York City — with its historic harness-racing track, picturesque Main Street and Greek Revival, Federal and Victorian houses — where the blocky concrete county government center designed by the celebrated Modernist architect Paul Rudolph has always been something of a misfit.
“I just don’t think it fits with the character of the county seat and the village of Goshen,” said Leigh Benton, an Orange County legislator who grew up in the area. “I just thought it was a big ugly building.”
Completed in 1967, the building has long been plagued by a leaky roof and faulty ventilation system and, more recently, by mold; it was closed last year after it was damaged by storms, including Tropical Storm Irene.
Edward A. Diana, the Orange County executive, wants to demolish it, an idea that has delighted many residents but alarmed preservationists, local and national, who say the building should be saved. The county legislature is expected to decide whether to demolish or renovate it next month.
Those who want to save it call it a prime example of an architectural style called Brutalism that rejected efforts to prettify buildings in favor of displaying the raw power of simple forms and undisguised building materials, like the center’s textured facade.
“Preservation is not simply about saving the most beautiful things,” said Mark Wigley, the dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. “It’s about saving those objects that are an important part of our history and whose value is always going to be a subject of debate.”
A similar debate is going on in Chicago, where preservationists have been fighting to save Prentice Women’s Hospital, a concrete, cloverleaf-shaped 1974 structure designed by Bertrand Goldberg that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has placed on its endangered list. In New Haven, the 1972 Veterans Memorial Coliseum was demolished in 2007 despite a campaign to rescue it.
In Manhattan, 2 Columbus Circle, the 1964 “lollipop” building by Edward Durell Stone, escaped demolition but was renovated in 2008 in a way that stripped away its original facade.
Preserving charming confections from the 18th- and 19th-century can be a struggle; convincing people to keep more recent, decidedly uncute structures built from 1950 into the 1970s can be a battle of an entirely higher magnitude, especially if they’ve sprung leaks.
“The phenomenon of a building that’s about 30 to 40 years old being severely out of style and leading to people wanting to alter it or demolish it is very real,” said Frank Sanchis, the director of United States programs at the World Monuments Fund page, about the Orange County Government Center here. The fund put the Goshen building on its 2012 watch list.
Opinions are even stronger when it comes to Brutalism, a style closely associated with the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, and one that tends to produce weighty monoliths like the F.B.I. headquarters in Washington and Boston City Hall.
In an interview Theodore Dalrymple, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute who has written about the architecture of Le Corbusier, described Brutalist buildings as “absolutely hideous, like scouring pads on the retina.”
“One of those buildings can destroy an entire cityscape that has been built up over hundreds of years,” he said.
Barry Bergdoll, the chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, said: “Brutalism was supposed to bring back all sorts of things like craft — the concrete wasn’t smooth, you could feel the hand of the worker there. But it was perceived in almost the exact opposite way. It’s one of the great public relations failures of all time. Most people think of Brutalist architecture literally — as aggressive, heavy, boding and forbidding.”
Rudolph, who died in 1997, was a prominent Modernist architect who also designed Yale’s Art and Architecture Building, among others. Architectural historians say the Goshen government center, which features protruding cubes and a corrugated concrete facade resembling corduroy, represents Rudolph at his best.
“I would easily identify this as one of his top 10,” said Sean Khorsandi, a director of the Paul Rudolph Foundation.
But Mr. Benton, the county legislator, called it “a world monument to inefficiency.” Each camp has its own estimate for how much it will cost to renovate the center — the preservation side says about $35 million, the county says $65 million. For an additional $20 million, county officials say, they would be able to build a new center (probably traditional) and to improve several other county buildings. The government offices that were in the center have dispersed around the county.
“I’m a pretty modern type of person when it comes to architecture and paintings,” said Mr. Diana, the county executive. “If the building functioned in the right manner and was effective and efficient, I’d leave the building right where it is.”
Economics aside, many say the Rudolph building simply has never belonged in Goshen and never will.
“It’s just so out of place,” said Barbara Hatfield, a longtime county resident. “Goshen is the county seat. There’s a lot of history there.”
But others argue that the building is part of the area’s history, too.
“It reflects a snapshot in time in the late ’60s and ’70s, when our history was turbulent,” said Patricia Turner, a resident trained as an architect who wants to save the building. “Isn’t that just as relevant as something that happened in 1868?”
John Hildreth, a vice president at the National Trust, said architectural taste changes over time and then can change again.
“There was a time when people weren’t concerned about saving Victorian houses, bungalows, Art Deco buildings — all were not favored styles,” he said. “You have to focus on the significance of the building and not its style, because styles will come and go. We’re at a point where we’re evaluating the recent past and coming up against that.”
Historians also say appreciating architecture can require an education.
“It’s like saying, ‘I don’t like Pollock because he splattered paint,’ ” said Nina Rappaport, chairwoman of Docomomo-New York/Tri-State, an organization that promotes the preservation of Modernist architecture. “Does that mean we shouldn’t put it in a museum? No, it means we teach people about these things.”
But Mr. Dalrymple said the notion that the public needs to be educated to appreciate Brutalism is like saying that people “need to be intimidated out of their taste.”
No expertise is needed to decide that a building is ugly, he said, adding, “It’s an aesthetic judgment.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: April 10, 2012
An article on Saturday about a dispute over whether to restore or demolish the Modernist county government center in Goshen, N.Y., designed by Paul Rudolph, misspelled the surname of an influential painter cited by a preservationist who said people should be taught to appreciate some works of modern art and architecture. He was Jackson Pollock, not Pollack.
A version of this article appeared in print on April 7, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Architecture’s Ugly Ducklings May Not Get Time to Be Swans.
Modernism, despite the popularity of Mad Men and shelter magazines like Dwell, is under assault. Iconic works of architecture and landscape architecture from the 1960s and 1970s have a particularly high mortality rate, though because of cultural and other biases, it's usually the endangered buildings we hear about and not the landscapes.
Two places, both recognized as Modernist masterworks, are currently facing complete destruction; one received front-page New York Timescoverage on April 7, 2012, and the other deserves the same level of national attention.
The Paul Rudolph-designed Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York, writes New York Times reporter Robin Pogrebin, is considered a landmark by some and an eyesore by others. However, the decision on whether to renovate or demolish it apparently hinges not on aesthetics, but on costs. According to Pogrebin: "Each camp has its own estimate for how much it will cost to renovate the center -- the preservation side says about $35 million, the county says $65 million."
Obviously, someone needs to check the math -- budget figures, like economics, statistics and opinion polls, can be manipulated to yield a predetermined outcome.
I'll leave you to read Pogrebin's piece and turn to the case that deserves national attention.
Peavey Plaza, Minneapolis, MN. Image courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.
In Minneapolis, the M. Paul Friedberg-designed Peavey Plaza is also slated for demolition because the city says the site is in poor condition and restoration would cost too much money. For those who don't know about Peavey, it's located downtown adjacent to Orchestra Hall and a block from Target's corporate headquarters. Peavey is a two-acre "park plaza," as Friedberg calls it, "a mixture of the American green space and the European hard space" that was completed in 1973. According to the AIA [American Institute of Architects] Guide to the Twin Cities, "The plaza is considered a highpoint of modern-period landscape architecture in Minneapolis." Even today, nearly 40 years after its completion, the integrity of this Modernist gem is very high and the design largely intact. Nevertheless, officials at Orchestra Hall, which is undergoing a $45 million renovation, have decided Peavey doesn't work for them and should be replaced.
Peavey Plaza, Minneapolis, MN. Image courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.
Peavey Plaza does need help. I know because, as I've written before, M. Paul Friedberg and I were on the team led by the Minneapolis-based landscape architecture firm Oslund and Associates the city selected to develop plans for the site. Unfortunately, Paul and I were shut out of the process before we could propose solutions that would maintain the integrity of Peavey's design while meeting contemporary demands and requirements, such as accessibility.
The city seems to have skillfully stacked the deck against Peavey by creating a false set of choices; essentially, restore Peavey to its original condition or create something new. Strangely, the only people insisting complete restoration is an option are city officials. Friedberg and I never advocated that, as we explained in an October 27, 2011 Minneapolis Star Tribunecommentary, and preservation organizations locally and nationally have all endorsed the idea of adapting Peavey to address accessibility and other issues, while maintaining the integrity of its major design elements. Indeed, Friedberg has offered to share design solutions that address these concerns with Mayor RT Rybak, the City Council and others who have been pushing to demolish Peavey.
Peavey Plaza, Minneapolis, MN. Image courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.
Unfortunately, the city seems determined to get its way and has come up with some head-spinning lines of reasoning. For example, the city's Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (DCPED) in a recent report supporting demolition has implied that adding an accessibility ramp to Peavey's existing design is a bad idea. Why? Because DCPED says it "would substantially alter the original design." Their solution? Destroy Peavey altogether.
Can someone explain the logic of this argument? That's about as sane as saying the light bulbs in your house aren't energy efficient, so we're tearing down your house to solve the problem.
They city has also cited the poor condition of Peavey, yet in their recently filed demolition permitthey admitted their direct role in the problem:
An intentional effort has been made in recent years to hold the line on maintenance costs, including the decision not to repair some fountains and other infrastructure and to reduce the staff time at the plaza.
The city also says complete restoration of Peavey Plaza, which they claim is the most expensive option, would cost $8.7 million. However, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, in their editorial endorsing a new park design, estimates the total cost for the new park at $8 to 10 million, which means the complete restoration false choice is comparable or possibly less expensive. Setting aside that complete restoration false choice thing, if the city insists on pushing this argument, someone needs to check the math. How did the city come up with this number? What's it based on? And, more importantly, against what other budget is this being compared? Where's the budget for the new park?
Peavey Plaza, Minneapolis, MN. Image courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.
The city has also said: "Any rebuilding/renovation scenario will require millions of dollars in donations/private dollars." Shouldn't we ask those potential donors what they think? Let's go through the likely candidates, starting with those on the Orchestra Hall board: Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, General Mills, and RBC Wealth Management, or maybe their neighbor Target. OK, but the city has also said, "potential funders will not contribute millions of dollars to restore the plaza to its original design because it cannot address accessibility, safety, and sustainability issues adequately."
A couple of problems here: 1. There's the circular logic of that complete restoration false option again (does anyone else feel like they're watching a cat chase its tail?) 2. It's sounds like the city has already poisoned the well for any options other than destruction. Once Rybak gets his big hole in the ground, funders will miraculously come tumbling of the sky like so many putti from the clouds in an Italian Baroque painting to pay for the new park.
Peavey Plaza, Minneapolis, MN. Image courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.
The next phase is a hearing before the city's Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), which released the DCPED's demolition recommendation on April 6 (both Passover and Good Friday! Talk about burying a story). They can decide to approve or reject the demolition, or postpone it for 180 days to allow for additional review. One of the commission members is Linda Mack, a former Minneapolis Star Tribune architecture critic who helped select the architect for Orchestra Hall's renovation and was, as the Star Tribune noted, a "communications adviser to Oslund and Associates," who led the Peavey redesign process. I think it's fair to ask if Ms. Mack has had any involvement whatsoever, including any formal or informal discussions with other commission members and staff, about the future of Peavey, and whether she will be voting on the DCPED's demolition recommendation.
The city, if it offers any rebuttal, will go through its usual litany of talking points about open and public process, and so on. Sorry, but repeating something often enough doesn't make it true -- remember that whole thing about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
Friedberg recently told me that while working on Peavey in the 1970's he, "was so impressed with the integrity that [Minneapolis] had, [it] stood out as a special place, their politics, their civic duty. They made sure everyone had a voice."
Steel windows present a challenge in many restoration projects.
By Martha McDonald
When restoring historic buildings, the question of what to do with the existing steel windows is often a serious concern. Architects may want to turn to replacement windows for energy conservation reasons, and there are firms that can provide historically accurate new windows.
On the repair side of the argument is John Seekircher, owner and founder of Seekircher Steel Window Repair, Peekskill, NY. The firm repairs and restores thousands of steel windows every year, for commercial and residential projects. The family-owned and operated firm has been in business since 1977, and has a long list of projects to its credit, including Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.
One of the advantages of repair versus replacement, Seekircher notes, is that it is usually quite a bit less expensive, "and the craftsmanship and lifespan of historic and steel windows is really unmatched by most replacement windows on the market today. Once restored, the historic windows are as good as new, even better."
One such recent example is Ely Hall at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, where Seekircher restored 24 steel windows of various sizes ranging from 4x5-ft. to 7x11-ft. "Here at Vassar College, we make a great attempt to restore our historic building envelope systems," says Jeff Horst, Director of Special Projects at the college. "Many of our buildings are older so that involves masonry restoration, replacing roofs, and either refurbishing or replacing the windows. One of the considerations is improving energy efficiency. Ely Hall has a mix of window sizes, some with divided lites, and some with no divided lites."
"The work is the same in all of the jobs," says Seekircher. "The windows are primed by hand, (we don't spray paint) and putty-glazed by hand, the same way it was done years ago. Then we add two finish coats and clean the glass and you have windows that are as good as new. The alloys in those windows are incredible. At Vassar, we only replaced about six feet of steel. The windows were still in very good shape. That's what we come across generally."
"The task was to restore the envelope system, the copper roof and the masonry," Horst notes. "The windows – both wood and steel – were a bit of a challenge. There was no question about the wood windows – they had to be replaced. At first we decided to replace the steel windows, but after further investigation, we found that the steel was in good condition; the paint and the glass were not."
"Seekircher made it clear that these windows were certainly worthy of restoration. He told us that the steel from this era is very good. We saw very little rust," says Horst. "The bottom line is that Seekircher completely restored the windows, with paint the same color as the original. We have gotten many compliments on the windows. They look really good, just like the original windows."
The college brought in CVM Engineering, a Philadelphia building restoration consultant for the project. "Vassar is one of the older campuses in the country and they have a lot of historical buildings," notes Matt Ridgway, architectural engineer, CVM. "Ely Hall is not on the National Landmark list, but it was built in 1889, with an addition in 1906. Our understanding is that the windows were original to the building."
"Our preference is always to salvage historic fabric in these historic buildings," he adds, "but one of the big questions is energy efficiency. What are you sacrificing energy-wise with restoration?" CVM looked at different options, including new thermally-broken aluminum windows that would replicate steel, and offer increased insulation values. He found that the cost of replication was two to four times the cost of restoring the historic steel windows. A decision was made to use laminated glass, rather than single-page glass, to provide more energy efficiency.
"The steel windows at Ely Hall were in fair condition, needing only to be scraped down, primed and painted," he notes. "So we restored them all in place. Fortunately, Seekircher also had a collection of historic hardware for replacements where needed."
"When looking at historic windows, there is always that decision to see if something is worth salvaging from financial standpoint and how important is original fabric. This project married these two thoughts. When we can, we like to try to get the best of both worlds."
While the windows at Vassar were restored on site, those at Columbia University Hospital in New York City were removed from the building and restored in the Seekircher shop. Another difference was the pricing structure – it was more expensive to restore rather than replace the windows, but the decision was made to restore because of the significance of the historic material.
"The Physicians and Surgeons Building is the flagship building for Columbia University Medical Center, and is the main entrance to the center," says Richard H. MacDowell, CSI, CDT, partner, Grenadier Corp., Bronx, NY, the general contractor for the project. "It is also one of the earliest buildings, constructed in the mid-1920s. The three monumental windows are right in the front. They are enormous – three stories high."
Richard Pieper, director of preservation at Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, NYC, the architect for the Columbia University Medical Center project, notes: "We are a preservation firm, so we are very, very sensitive to changes in design. In this case, we felt very strongly that aluminum extrusion windows would significantly impact the look of the building. We spoke to the client about it and they agreed."
"These are definitely the biggest steel windows we have worked on," says Seekircher. "It was a challenge taking them apart. When they are this big, it is usually easier to work in place, but because they had to do some repairs on the limestone, we would have been in the way, so the work was done in the shop."
The windows were dismantled, loaded into Grenadier trucks and taken to the shop. "We made several trips to the shop to monitor the work and talk about certain repairs," MacDowell notes. "At some point, a decision was made to replace all of the glass rather than just broken planes."
Grenadier workmen set the repaired steel windows in place and then Seekircher did the final painting and glazing (1/4-in. laminated glass) on site. "The client was thrilled," says MacDowell. "We got so many comments from people who said they were such beautiful windows. They didn't realize that they were the old windows. Even some engineers thought they looked like new windows. John also added some new hardware. The windows really stood out. It was a big 'wow' factor." TB
L&L Holdings Chairman David Levinson and 425 Park Avenue (building credit: PropertyShark)
L&L Holdings has taken a major step towards erecting the first new office tower along Park Avenue in more than 30 years. The Wall Street Journal reported the firm has reached out to 11 big-name architects, including three Pritzker Prize winners, for design ideas on a new skyscraper at 425 Park Avenue, between 55th and 56th Streets.
L&L Holdings acquired the long-term lease on the existing building in a partnership with Lehman Brothers Holdings in 2006. In an effort to boost revenue on the prime Park Avenue site, it wants to demolish the existing 31-story, 567,000-square-foot, circa-1950s office tower and replace it with a new $750 million building. The property is currently mostly leased with rents of about $50 to $70 per square foot. The Journal speculated that a new building would attract rents of more than $100 per foot.
To build as tall as possible per building codes, L&L Holdings must keep 25 percent of the existing structure, although Bloomberg is working to change those rules. In the meantime, L&L hopes to have the building vacant by 2015 so that demolition can start and the building can be complete by 2017.
The land underneath the building was purchased last year by TIAA-CREF for $315M. [WSJ]