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Landmarks Commission Weighs in on Domino Development

Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed. Only one building (technically, that building is three buildings) in the Two Trees Domino Sugar Factory development is under the purview of the Landmarks Preservation Commission—the individually landmarked Domino Sugar Refinery (third from the left). At a public hearing yesterday, the Commission took a look at architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle's designs for that structure, and the reviews were mixed. In a previous Domino development plan, back when the site was owned by the Community Preservation Corp. and the Katan Group, the Refinery was supposed to go residential. Now it will be turned into office space for tech companies, a switch that is being lauded by politicians. The previous design, also by Beyer Blinder Belle, was approved by the LPC three years ago, but did not include the four-story glass addition (two stories on the Kent Avenue side) that proved to be a point of contention at yesterday's hearing. "The proposal before the Commission today contains more square footage than the prior approval due to the retention of the building's core and a second rooftop addition," said the Historic Districts Council's  Nadezhda Williams. "Keeping the bulk of the additions to the back portion of the building where it interferes with only the least distinguished piece of the building would much more preferable than disturbing the main view of the individual landmark and its iconic chimney."

Although Commission chair Robert Tierney called the proposal "extremely appropriate and impressive" (marking quite possibly the first time that a four-story glass addition on top of an individual landmark has ever been referred to as "appropriate"), not all of the commissioners agreed. Commissioner Michael Devonshire commented that the addition would obscure the masonry on the (shorter) Kent Avenue side, and other commissioners remarked that it appeared to "float" above the building. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter thought that the addition was simultaneously too big and too small, in that it is one third the size of the existing building, but also that it would be "struggling against its massive neighbors." All in all, some confusing advice for the architects, but since the Commission did not approve the Modified Certificate of Appropriateness, Beyer Blinder Belle will have to make some revisions and present again at a later date.

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