By Brian J Pape, AIA
At what seems to be a snail’s pace, the demolition of the derelict building at 327 Bleecker, southeast corner of Christopher Street, has finally begun. Passers-by as long ago as 2010 noticed bulging exterior walls exhibiting cracks in the brickwork and trim. The city had to order its evacuation while the owner figured out how to remedy the problem.
Built as a residential rowhouse in 1832 for Samuel Whittemore, with storefront commercial space common in the village, the building was on one of the odd, irregular and narrow sites, but it was in a good commercial location, so the two-story edifice got additions in the 1860’s, 1899, and 1950’s.
FSI Architecture was hired by owner William Gottlieb Real Estate to devise a replacement for the current four-story structure, and in 2015 they presented their designs to the LPC (NYC’s Landmark Preservation Commission). Though it restored the previous top-floor mansard roof, other embellishments did not get LPC’s approval, until FSI returned in late 2016, with a simplified version.
The approved design in fact closely mimics the facades seen in the 1910 and 1940 archival photos. The mansard roof is only on the Bleecker side, and the commercial storefront wraps from Bleecker around the corner one bay on Christopher.
Which brings us to today. The plans were approved in 2016, yet in late 2020 we see the first stirrings of progress at the site, not to mention the improved safety precautions of scaffolding and sidewalk shed for the demolition work. This new building will be a welcome addition to this corner, a carefully curated design fully in keeping with the historic neighborhood.
Brian J. Pape is a LEED-AP “Green” architect consulting in private practice, serves on the Manhattan District 2 Community Board, is Co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, and is a journalist, especially on architecture subjects.