By Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP
The public was treated to presentations for new building proposals at recent LPC and CB2 meetings. This first offering seems to be a welcomed addition to a rather neglected spot on the once thriving “Positively 8th Street” section near Jimi Hendrix’s former Electric Lady recording studios. This corner in previous years was occupied by a four-story hotel (similar to the hotel at the other corner down at MacDougal and Waverly Place), but has now been reduced to one-story “taxpayers,” and the tenement to the left of it is heavily modified and well-worn. Two doors further left at 171-173 MacDougal is a beautifully repurposed six-story factory/bindery building built in 1891, with red brick and bold cornices, remodeled in 1966 as a Christian Science church facility. Washington Square Park starts at the Waverly corner.
The proposal by Morris Adjmi Architects and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, for their client Straus Group, incorporates three building lots on MacDougal, so they propose to renovate the tenement building to restore many exterior details and market-rate apartment interiors, then add a new ground-up mixed-use (market-rate apartments above retail) building on the other two lots. As presented, it is an as-of-right design conforming to zoning laws, building codes, and height and area requirements, meaning that if it weren’t in a historic district, it would be approved at the city staff level and permitted without any public hearings.
But it is in the original 1969 Greenwich Village Historic District, and apropos of the public presentations, comments from those in attendance were offered to the presenters, who seemed to be attentive to them. Some comments were critical of the large 8th Street façade that, despite careful light-colored brick detailing, still seemed too immense to some, who wonder if more differentiating could be added as on the MacDougal side. Other comments focused on the corner chamfered entry treatment, with a simple column supporting an overhung soffit, which seemed too simple for this district. Other questions about the penthouse height and surface treatments were heard.
Although the retail space on the ground floor is designed for small local shops, with at least two entrance doors shown, there were still questions about window sizes and how the storefronts appear to continue around the corner, lacking the distinct look of separate buildings. Further consideration may be given to these details in future presentations.
The consultants have appeared before in public hearings with their designs for historic neighborhoods, and their firms’ experience include many successful buildings. Their efforts to design the new buildings to fit in with the streetscape will go a long way to achieving approvals.
Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP, is an architectural consultant in private practice, serves on the Community Board 2 in Manhattan, is Co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, and is WestViewNews.org Architectural Editor.