Jeff Mays reports for DNAinfo.
The historic RKO Hamilton Theater may become luxury condos in exchange for the preservation and restoration of the interior theater as a community performance space. The possible deal comes as the owner of the landmarked theater, Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, led by real estate mogul Ben Ashkenazy, sought support from Community Board 9 for its application with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to build a connector between the two buildings that make up the Hamilton Heights theater at Broadway and 146th Street.
At first, Ashkenazy, who purchased the building along with another building in Washington Heights for $19 million in 2012, considered creating retail space for a company such as Burlington Coat Factory in the former theater, which showed its last movie in 1958.
But the board and Harlem historian Michael Henry Adams proposed that the developer build condominiums on top of the theater instead, as a way of financing the preservation of the historic interior. "Since the luxury towers are going to come anyway, we might as well get something back for having to suffer these banal glass boxes," said Adams, author of "Harlem, Lost and Found."
Recent zoning changes to West Harlem make the construction of a tower there more feasible. The interior of the building was never landmarked. "What we want to see happen with this theater is to see it redeveloped and become a community resource," said Arnold Boatner, chairman of CB 9's Landmarks and Parks Committee. "There are a large number of performance artists in our community who don't have space." The Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas, chairwoman of CB9, said the board would even support luxury housing at the site— often a contentious issue at Harlem community boards concerned about rapid gentrification.
The community board voted to support the new connector between the theater buildings, but with an unusually high number of abstentions. "If they say they will restore the theater, we will have to bend if they do all market-rate housing," said Morgan-Thomas. "This is about creating something that could be here 20 to 30 years from now."
The Landmarks Preservation Commission, which designated the exterior of the building as a historic landmark in 2000, approved an application last Tuesday to add an addition between the two buildings that will be set back from the street and clad in brick to match the rear building. That addition is necessary to make the building usable, whether it ultimately becomes a retail or residential building. One of the factors in the commission's approval was that the building once had a passageway connecting the two structures.
Jeffrey A. Chester, an attorney with Gonzalez Saggio Harlan-LLP who represents Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, called the residential plan an ambitious one that might be difficult to pull off for a few reasons. Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation is primarily a commercial real estate company. The company has extensive commercial holdings with multiple buildings on Madison Avenue as well as Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston. The company's initial proposal was to renovate the interior of the building for retail and leave the landmarked exterior alone. If the company decides to pursue residential development, it would likely have to partner with another firm.
Secondly, restoring the damaged theater would be quite expensive. The entire bottom floor of seats is missing and the building has peeling paint and graffiti after suffering years of water leaks and neglect. "The owner is looking at it but what they have proposed is extraordinarily ambitious and would require variances and approval from landmarks beyond what we initially considered," Chester said. "The question remains: Is there a viable market to keep that theater busy enough to pay for itself?
I don't know if a nonprofit theater group will pay the freight to make this work." Yuien Chin, of the Hamilton Heights-West Harlem Community Preservation Organization, said she envisions a dynamic organization running the space who would be able to create the high-level programming and financial partnerships necessary to make it self-sufficient. "I don't think it's a situation of 'build it and they will come,'" said Chin. "The demand for a performance and visual arts space, not to mention a banquet hall for dances and receptions, is already here."
The now-decrepit building and theater is worth saving because of its history, said Adams. Commissioned by vaudeville operator Benjamin S. Moss and theater developer Solomon Brill, the neo-Renaissance Revival-style structure was designed by Thomas Lamb, a prolific theater and cinema designer, and was completed in 1913. Vaudeville acts performed at the theater, using the space between the two buildings to bring in sets. In 1928, the theater was sold and became one of New York City's first movie houses.
Movies ceased to be shown at the 1,800-seat theater in 1958 and the space was then used as a disco, church and arena. The lobby of the theater was last used as a retail space for the El Mundo department store, which left a year and a half ago. The structure has been vacant since.
Matt Lambros, a Brooklyn photographer who gained access to the theater to take pictures in 2011 for his website After the Final Curtain, said he was pleasantly surprised to hear discussion about restoring the theater. "I assumed that one was going to go down," said Lambros, who has traveled the country photographing shuttered theaters. "It's still grand and in pretty good shape, so it should be easier to save than most old theaters."
Adams said there used to be several Lamb-built theaters on Harlem's west side but most have not survived. "These places survived close to 100 years and one by one they have all been wiped out," said Adams. "The Hamilton is one of the most beautiful Thomas Lamb theaters ever built and it should not be allowed to be swept away."
Zoe Rosenberg reports for Curbed.
New renderings have emerged for the Red Hook warehouse conversion at 202 Coffey Street led by architects AA Studio (formerly Adjmi & Andreoli), BuzzBuzz Home reports. The 130,000-square-foot factory space was purchased in 2012 by Milan-based developer Est4te Four for $11.8 million. According to the developer's website, 202 Coffey Street formerly served as a production warehouse for "high-end women's handbags that were sold on 5th Avenue in the 1920's." In a 2012 interview with the Commercial Observer, Est4te Four's Alessandro Cajrati Crivelli said that the firm intended to restore the weathered 1889 complex to its former glory.
UPDATE: The renderings pictured above and below are actually three years old, despite being posted on AA Studio's Facebook page yesterday. A rep reached out to explain that they are simply fun conceptual ideas. Rather than add any glass appendages to 202 Coffey Street, as depicted in the outdated renderings, the architects plan to renovate the building sans additions. That means there will be no new construction.
The building currently features wooden trusses and ceiling heights as heigh as 55 feet. In its conversion, the factory's existing courtyard will be opened up. The space will serve as a creative complex of art studios and galleries. The architect's design includes an eight-story contemporary building that "reflects the industrial characteristics of the existing buildings." It's a far cry from the vast, desolate warehouse we toured in 2012. An AA Studio rep said the renovation will include new contemporary windows, new steel doors, landscaping in the old courtyards, new concrete floors, repointed bricks, sandblasted wood trusses, and new skylights, all of which will bring the building back to its original state.
The restoration team relied on a combination of traditional and contemporary materials and construction techniques. The cast iron and sheet metal facade was removed, repaired or re-fabricated, and replaced with new structural connections.
Historic Brick Wall Scheduled for Demolition Saved by Jahn M30 The Cathedral Stone Newsletter, July 2006
The condominium complex at 241 Eldridge Street was constructed in 1904 in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Architect Scott Henson was hired by the condominium board to perform a full exterior analysis of the building. The analysis revealed a number of necessary repairs, including brick, window, and terra cotta replacement and repairs, mortar joint cutting and re pointing, as well as the replacement of the roof membrane and cornice. During removal of the parapet walls, the internal conditions of the brickwork and mortar were found to be severely deficient. The back-up masonry was loose laid in many areas with no mortar.The failures of this building were directly attributed to the mortar. The mortar used in the original construction of this building consisted of a high-lime content resulting in little or no binding between the mortar and the bricks. The mortar within the walls was loose and powdery. Adverse weather conditions and poor maintenance over the life of the building accelerated the deterioration of the mortar. Several structural engineers were invited to the building to inspect conditions and provide recommendations. The consensus was that the walls required complete reconstruction from the ground up. This solution was prohibitively expensive for the building owners; therefore and extensive search was undertaken for an alternative solution to repair the internal condition of the walls. After the research and testing of many masonry techniques and products, including mechanical pinning, brick repair products and soil consolidation products, Cathedral Stone Products' Jahn M30 Micro Injection Grout was found. When injected, Jahn M30 will travel into the substrate and continue until it flows freely from this port and other ports at the same level. The ports are then sealed using non-staining clay, sealant, or caulk. A series of injection ports must be drilled on the face of the substrate to create a "drill frame." Ports should be drilled in a downward direction. Cathedral Stone Products, Inc. supplied Jahn M30 Injection Grout for a test area. Cathedral Stone Products representatives, including Dan Perakes, conducted the initial testing on the building. A second and larger test was performed to confirm initial results. This test involved injecting the Jahn M30 into specific areas in the walls to determine whether or not the repair process was going to work. Jahn M30 again proved successful. Extensive testing was performed until the correct installation procedures and amounts of grout required were determined to consolidate the existing lose, powdery mortar, to fill the voids between the internal brickwork, and ultimately to provide a structurally stable building. It was originally thought that the cost to replace the exterior walls would be an estimated $1.8 million. The repairs would have to be completed section by section. Because of the success of Jahn M30 the entire project cost was $106,000 saving the owners over $1.6 million. Scott Henson Architects hired Viles Contracting Corporation to complete the repairs. From February 9th to April 22nd, 2005, they drilled 1,435 holes into the building and pumped in 1,280 gallons of the M30 Injection Grout. After 241 Eldridge Street was completed, the project was featured in the NY Times and drew interest from the engineers with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). They wanted to look at the project to see if the repair method was a viable alternative for maintaining their buildings. They met with both Cathedral Stone Representatives as well as Scott Henson. In the summer of 2005, CSP successfully completed Jahn M30 Injection test of the New York City Housing Authority. They are currently monitoring the tests and are considering using the method of restoration for future projects. Go to Cathedral Stone Newsletter
Lower East Side
Last night, Anthony Robins spoke at the Dominican Society about the history of Grand Central and about the importance of preserving the adjacent buildings that make up Terminal City as the city prepares to rezone Midtown East. Below is his post on the subject for M.A.S.
Grand Central Terminal: 100 Years of a New York Landmark
GUEST POST: Anthony W. Robins is an historian, writer and lecturer who has led MAS tours for several decades. He teaches the research skills used in writing his new book in an annual MAS seminar, being offered this year in April. To anybody who’s worked in or cared about the historic preservation movement in New York, the very name “Grand Central Terminal” has enormous significance, because it conjures the 1978 Supreme Court decision that put preservation on a solid legal footing. By chance, I started working at the New York Landmarks Commission in January of 1979, just a few months after the Court had handed down the decision. Kent Barwick, who had guided the effort at the Municipal Art Society, had just moved over to be the LPC’s new chairman.
The general feeling was that historic preservation had passed a critical test – now it was legitimate, accepted, constitutional. The name “Grand Central” became a kind of shorthand for not just a major victory, but an entirely changed environment. What remained was the messy physical and financial reality. The terminal was a mess – dirty, deteriorating, dangerous. The main waiting room – today called Vanderbilt Hall – had become a homeless encampment. Besides being a humanitarian disaster, that encampment discouraged other New Yorkers from coming to the terminal. With a declining rail industry unable to generate the necessary income, the terminal seemed, so to speak, terminal. Nevertheless, after years of effort, complex financing, a reimagining of the terminal as a destination for New Yorkers already in the city – rather than just a destination for travelers to the city – and an expansive restoration, Grand Central has emerged as the jewel it was always meant to be. In many ways, its transition from bankrupt decaying hulk to gloriously restored success story mirrors the evolution of the city and its physical restoration over the past thirty-five years.
The terminal’s centennial is an occasion to celebrate the survival of a major New York monument which we almost lost. As to the new book, Grand Central Terminal: 100 Years of a New York Landmark, just published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang (an imprint of Abrams) as a project of the New York Transit Museum: Being asked to write the book celebrating the centennial of Grand Central Terminal was a terrific honor. It was also a major challenge. I’d led some of the famous MAS Wednesday Grand Central tours over the years, but quickly discovered how much there was that I didn’t know. It was an intense research and writing project, supported by the wonderful archivists at the Transit Museum (Carey Stumm and Brett Dion). Perhaps the most surprising thing I learned – though hardly a secret – was the extent of the entire surrounding district, “Terminal City.”
In the area from Forty-second Street to at least 50th Street, roughly from Madison to Lexington avenues, dozens of buildings rise above Grand Central’s sunken train yard. Terminal City initially developed with elegant masonry buildings designed either by Grand Central’s architects, Warren & Wetmore, or by architects whose proposals required W&W’s approval. The result was a visually cohesive whole – an entirely new section of Manhattan. After the war, Park Avenue redeveloped as a glass and steel International Style office park, so the feeling of visual cohesiveness has largely disappeared.
The best remaining spot to get a sense of what it looked like is along Vanderbilt Avenue where – with the exception of the refaced Biltmore Hotel – the original Terminal City buildings still stand. These, unfortunately, may be threatened by the recently proposed new zoning for east Midtown. Happily, the MAS once again is stepping into the battle.
Thank you for your interest. The position has been filled.
NEW YORK CITY LANDMARKS PRESERVATION COMMISSION Robert B. Tierney Chairman FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, October 9, 2012 No. 12-10 EAST VILLAGE/LOWER EAST SIDE HISTORIC DISTRICT APPROVED Area Encompassing 330 Row Houses, Tenements, Houses of Worship, Theaters and Other Institutional Buildings Along and Off Second Avenue between East 2nd and East 7th Streets Represent Nearly 200 Years of New York City History The Landmarks Preservation Commission today approved the designation of the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District, capping a two-year effort spearheaded by LPC to protect more than 330 architecturally and historically significant buildings that are synonymous with the American immigrant experience. The district runs from East 2nd to East 7th streets along and off Second Avenue, in an area that was once part of Peter Stuyvesant’s estate. Development started in the 1830s, with the construction of elegant Greek Revival row houses for the city’s elite, and took off in the mid-19th century as handsome tenements, houses of worship and other institutions were erected for German immigrants who flocked to the neighborhood and later inhabited by many other immigrant groups, including Eastern Europeans, and Latinos. The district assumed a new identity in the mid-20th century, drawing a vibrant mix of artists, musicians and community activists and has since been known as the East Village. “Each wave of immigrants that settled in the district gave rise to the richly layered built environment that remains today,” said Commission Chairman Robert B. Tierney. “It’s an incredibly intact collection, developed over the course of nearly 200 years, of row houses, tenements, houses of worship, theaters that tell a complete story of one of New York City’s most renowned neighborhoods.” Wealthy New Yorkers who had lived in Manhattan’s southern tip moved to the area in the 1830s and made it the city’s toniest residential district. With these new arrivals came numerous single-family mansions and row houses, such as those at 30 to 38 East 3rd Street. Completed in 1836, the buildings retain their original Flemish bond brickwork and Greek Revival-style detailing. One of the district’s most evocative blocks is East 4th Street between the Bowery and Second Avenue, which was designated by the City as the a cultural district because of the high concentration of theaters there. The south side includes Nos. 64 to 68 (at right), which comprised the centerpiece of a residential development known as Albion Place, a handsome terrace of 12 uniformly designed, 3 ½-story houses that were completed in 1833. Nos. 66 and 68 were combined and raised to four stories in 1871 as part of a conversion by the New York Turn Verein, a German gymnastics organization. In 1882, the Turn Verein hosted the first Yiddish-language theatrical production ever staged in the United States. It has been an annex of the La Mama Experimental Theatre Club since the 1970s. Tenement construction and the conversion of single-family homes into multiple-family dwellings began in the 1850s as the wealthy left and large number of immigrants moved in, most of them German. These buildings, known as “pre-law” tenements because they predated the Tenement House Act of 1879, were designed in a simplified version of the Italianate style that had become the dominant mode of architecture in New York City. Examples can be found at 433 to 441 East 6th Street, a c. 1861 row of five uniform structures owned by the heirs of the John Jacob Astor fortune and at 310 to 338 East 6th Street (at left), a c. 1864 row of 15 tenements owned by the heirs of Stephen Whitney. Other immigrant groups began to settle in the neighborhood in the 1890s, many of them Yiddish- speaking Jews from Eastern Europe, who transformed the area into a thriving entertainment district that was known as the Yiddish Rialto, and included the Public Theater and the Lowe’s Commodore movie palace at 66 and 105 Second Avenue, respectively. One of the most impressive reminders of this community is the Neo Classical style, c. 1910 Congregation Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezeritz synagogue at 415 East 6th Street (at right), designed by German architect Herman Horenburger. Immigrants from Poland and Hungary also left conspicuous marks on the neighborhood with buildings like the limestone, c. 1901 Saint Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Roman Catholic Church, at 107 East 7th Street by architect Arthur Arctander and the “naturestone” c. 1904, altered Gothic Revival style First Hungarian Reformed Church (now St. Mary’s American Orthodox Greek Catholic Church) at 121 East 7th Street by architect Frederick Ebeling. Tenement construction continued in the last decades of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th century. The buildings were more flamboyant than their predecessors, as the Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival and Renaissance Revival styles came into fashion, and facades typically featured richly molded terra-cotta detailing, textured brickwork, densely layered beltcourses, projecting piers, and boldly massed cornices. Examples include the rows at 95 to 99 East 7th Street (at left) and 65 to 75 East 4th Street. Intense construction ended in the early 1930s because of the Great Depression, and most of the structures haven’t changed since then. But the demographics of the neighborhood changed dramatically in the 1950s, when Latin American immigrants, mostly from Puerto Rico, and artists and bohemians priced out of Greenwich Village moved there. The neighborhood survived plans for urban renewal the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the economic downturn of the 1970s, to become the center of the 1980s downtown art and music scene. The Fillmore East, run by the noted rock concert promoter Bill Graham, opened in the former Commodore Theatre at 105 Second Avenue (see photo at left) in 1968, and later became the Saint, a private dance club. The former Yiddish Public Theatre at 66 Second Avenue, served for a short time as CBGB’s Second Avenue Theater beginning in 1977, and hosted such bands and performers as the Talking Heads and Patti Smith. And a former meeting hall at 101 Avenue A has been the home of the Pyramid Club since 1979, providing a venue for drag performances, benefit concerts for AIDS victims and acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana. *** The Landmarks Preservation Commission is the mayoral agency responsible for protecting and preserving New York City’s architecturally, historically and culturally significant buildings and sites. Since its creation in 1965, LPC has granted landmark status to more than 30,000 buildings and sites, including 1,318 individual landmarks, 114 interior landmarks, 10 scenic landmarks, 109 historic districts and 18 historic district extensions in all five boroughs. Under the City’s landmarks law, considered among the most powerful in the nation, the Commission must be comprised of at least three architects, a historian, a realtor, a planner or landscape architect, as well as a representative of each borough. Contact: Elisabeth de Bourbon/ 212-669-7938 To find out more, click here.