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Mixed-use building design for Greenwich Village seen as "disproportionate"

Zoe Rosenberg reports for Curbed: 130 Seventh Ave. South's Revised 'Glacier' Fails To Woo LPC

With their prior success in creating historically sensitive designs, BKSK Architects thought they might have done so again yesterday when presenting their renderings for a mixed-use project at 130 Seventh Avenue South to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Since the project's initial design, courtesy of Peter Sampton, was panned by the LPC in September, BKSK has stepped in.

"We believe a façade that clearly speaks of its time is an effective way to heal this scar" caused by the "ruthless cut of Seventh Avenue South at one point in time," said BKSK's Harry Kendall and George Schieferdecker, with Schieferdecker adding that the triangular site "offers us a great opportunity to be in the Flatiron mode". But yesterday afternoon, the LPC and a room full of neighborhood preservationists proved them wrong, citing the design as "monolithic" and like a "glacier". No one in the room was reluctant to acknowledge that the current site occupant, a one-story restaurant, is an "eyesore". However, few believed the new design was appropriate for the neighborhood.

[This is the old, panned design from September.]

What BKSK proposed was a 14,000-square-foot residential, 2,000-square-foot commercial building with five full-floor units and a two-story penthouse. The building would stand 75 feet to the top of the bulkhead, and 85 feet at the building's highest point. In their revision of prior "slice of glass" plans, the architects most notably attempted to reflect the surrounding neighborhood in their design by including vertical brick beams amongst the curtain wall façade at the points where the site's original party walls stood. But this contemporary tactic was what really seemed to irk neighbors and commissioners.

The commissioners' comments echoed ones uttered about the Peter Sampton-designed building for the same site at the LPC back in September, with Commissioner Diana Chapin noting, "the verticality is not appropriate" given the scale of the neighborhood. Commissioner Michael Goldblum took a different stance on the scale of buildings in Greenwich Village, declaring, "It ain't Park Slope". One speaker who represented several downtown City Council members declared that the building "will dramatically alter the sense of place at the site that lies in the heart of the historic district." Another speaker argued that masses of the city's visitors flock to Greenwich Village specifically because of its scale and charm, in contrast to Midtown's. Would this "disproportionate" lodging for just a few deplete the neighborhood of that charm? So it's back to the drawing board for developers Continental Ventures and the Keystone Group. See you at the next hearing.  

Published in Landmarks Preservation

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