The latest news on New York architecture.

  • Considerations for Storefront Rehabilitation

    Considerations for Storefront Rehabilitation

    It is often said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. First impressions have the ability to either make or break a business; the right first impression can draw potential customers in, while the wrong one can drive customers into the arms of competitors. A building’s storefront plays a crucial role in a store’s advertising and merchandizing, and as a result, the storefront has become one of the most important architectural features of many historic buildings. The sensitive rehabilitation of a building’s storefront can not only increase business, but contribute to efforts to revitalize neighborhoods.

    Keys to Success

    A key to the successful rehabilitation of historic storefronts, is the delicate treatment of each of its components. Significant storefront features, including windows, sash, doors, transoms signs and other decorative features, should be repaired, replaced in kind, or addressed by a compatible contemporary design in order to maintain the character of the building.

    Where a storefront no longer exists or is deteriorated beyond repair, a new storefront must be designed. New storefront elements should reflect the size, scale, color, material and character of the building. Before any work can begin, the Architect must establish a thorough understanding of the building’s architectural history and relationship to the streetscape. Old photographs, prints and physical components should be considered, and influence the form and details of the rehabilitation or new design.

    Whether restoration or redesign is the path of choice, it is important to keep design elements simple and to allow the architectural elements to speak for themselves. Signage and awnings should be kept free from visual clutter, and of modest size. The lighting elements considered should be warm and inviting, while the integration of physical security elements should be kept out of sight. It is also important to address areas of graffiti and vandalism, which can make customers feel unsafe or unwelcome.

    Understanding Regulations

    All historic properties in New York City must follow the rules and master plans outlined by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Restorative work can be approved at the staff level if it is based on documented historic precedents and does not involve the destruction of historic fabric. However, contemporary designs require a review before the full Commission at a public hearing.

    Additionally, any planned construction on a building’s storefront must follow the local building code. New York City building code is a set of regulations that governs everything from the size of the sign you can put up to the type of lighting fixture that can be installed. Building permits are required for awnings, marquees, flagpoles and signs larger than 6 square feet. It is important to consult your Architect regarding all relevant codes and required permits.

                Feel free to contact Scott Henson Architect to discuss your building’s historic storefront. 

  • A Guide to Working on Landmarked Buildings

    A Guide to Working on Landmarked Buildings

    New York City is home to over 36,000 landmarked properties-most of which are located in 141 historic districts and extensions - 1,398 individual landmarks, and 119 interior landmarks. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), the largest preservation agency in the nation, is entrusted with safeguarding the city’s cultural, social, economic, political and architectural history.

    Any work proposed work on a landmarked building must be held up to strict LPC standards and regulations- that means any restoration, alteration, reconstruction, demolition or new construction that effects a landmark requires a permit.

    The type of permit required depends entirely on the type of work involved in the project. Permits can either be issued by a staff Preservationist or the full Commission depending on whether or not the scope of work meets the rules of the Commission. There are three types of permits:

    Certificate of No Effect:

    Also known as a CNE, a Certificate of No Effect is required for the following work:

    • Interior renovations that require Department of Buildings permits

    • Installation of plumbing and heating equipment

    • Installation of an exhaust fan vent

    • Changes that the staff determines do not adversely affect significant features of the building

    A CNE can be approved at staff level and does not require a public hearing with the full Commission.

    Permit for Minor Work

    Also known as a PMW, a Permit for Minor Work is required when the scope of work affects significant architectural features. This type of work includes:

    • Window/ door replacement

    • Masonry cleaning or repair

    • Restoration of architectural details


    A PMW can be approved at staff level and does not require a public hearing with the full Commission.


    Certificate of Appropriateness

    Over 90% of all applications to the LPC fall within the first two permit categories, however the remaining 10% are reviewed by the full Commission and the project’s local community board. Also known as a C of A, a Certificate of Appropriateness is required if the scope of work affects the significant landmarked features or does not conform to the Rules of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. This includes:

    • Additions

    • Demolitions

    • New construction

    • Removal of significant architectural features

    Filing a permit with the Landmarks Preservation Commission requires that an Architect create signed/sealed drawings and prepare a package of descriptive materials to aid the Commission’s evaluation of the impact of the proposed scope of work. These materials include a permit application, color photographs of the current building, historic photographs, close-up photos of where the work will occur, documentation of features to be restored, detail drawings, elevation and section drawings, written specifications and color/material samples.

    Whether you plan to do minor repairs or a full building addition, when approaching a project with landmark status it is important to hire a firm with extensive experience with the Landmarks Preservation Commission. If you have any questions about performing work on your landmarked property, do not hesitate to contact us.