Gas Station on Houston to Go

Gas Station on Houston to Go

By: Scott Henson

The gas station on the corner of Houston and Lafayette streets is one step closer to being demolished, a step that would remove one of the last vestiges of SoHo’s grittier past.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has unanimously approved a plan to demolish three buildings—a BP BP.LN -0.82%PLC gas station, the bar Puck Fair, and a former mechanic shop—and replace them with a seven-story office building with a retail component.

Andrew Hinderaker for The Wall Street JournalThe BP gas station at the corner of Houston and Lafayette streets, which will be redeveloped by the real-estate development firm LargaVista.

The commission, which designated the site as part of the SoHo Cast Iron Historic District Extension in 2010 because of its prominent location, says it approved the demolition of the buildings because “they are atypical of the structures found elsewhere in the district,” said a landmarks spokeswoman of the Tuesday vote.

The neighborhood, once home to venues like Mars Bar, antique shops and an outdoor flea market, has gotten a makeover in recent decades as it has attracted a number of retail chains and office tenants ranging from technology companies to designers.

Ten years ago, the area offered “all no-name stores,” said Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of the retail group at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Today, she calls it “the denim corridor,”—a reference to jean retailers that have moved in like G-Star Raw and Supreme.

dboxA rendering of the proposed development.

The gas station, which was a Gaseteria before it was a BP location, has been owned by Marcello Porcelli’s family since 1976. Mr. Porcelli, president of real-estate development firm LargaVista, decided he wanted to redevelop the site when BP’s lease was up at 300 Lafayette St.

The project, designed by CookFox Architects LLP, will contain 30,000 square feet of retail space and 40,000 square feet of office space. Mr. Porcelli—whose portfolio is represented by CBRE Group Inc.’s CBG -0.82%tri-state region head Mary Ann Tighe and Vice President Tom Duke—expects the project to be certified under the city’s land-use approval process, which usually takes several months,

According to CBRE, the average asking rent for office space in SoHo and NoHo was $79.44 a square foot in the first quarter, up from $49.78 in the year-earlier period.

“It’s got the exposure of Times Square and yet it’s in a neighborhood like SoHo that’s so exciting and dynamic,” Mr. Porcelli said.

Mr. Duke says he expects that the building would have some of the highest rents south of midtown for office and retail. “This is a trophy of LargaVista’s portfolio,” he says.

But not everyone is a fan of his proposal. “We are an icon, I believe, in the neighborhood,” said Fernando Dallorso, a manager at Puck Fair, one of the buildings that would be torn down. “I think it would be a loss, but nothing we can do about it.” Mr. Dallorso says that the bar is currently in a lease, but he wouldn’t discuss its terms.

On Wednesday afternoon, the proposal to replace the gas station drew mixed reviews. The corner, which is surrounded by chains ranging from Adidas to Brooklyn Industries, was filled with shoppers and tourists with cameras strapped to their necks.

How Zan, a 38-year-old architect who works across the street from the gas station, said good riddance.

“It’s creating too much traffic,” said the Jersey City resident. “People in line, the cabdrivers, they think this is theirs. They occupy this place.”

But Miranda Santiago, a 31-year-old veterinarian who has lived in SoHo for two years, disagrees. “It’s a bummer to see it go,” she said.

As for the grit and graffiti that SoHo was known for decades ago? “I almost feel like that’s not even associated with SoHo anymore,” she said.


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