By Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP
The familiar Caribe vans and delivery vehicles parked at the corner lot of Hudson and Charles Streets, a former gasoline station and garage, probably a contaminated brownfield site, will have to move out when construction on a new seven-story building begins. Caribe is the maintenance arm of the William Gottlieb Real Estate company, with offices on Christopher Street, Weehawken Street, and Charles Lane, among other sites. Gottlieb has mounted banners on lampposts throughout the Meatpacking District to proudly promote their development activities.
Like any LLC, the actual individuals behind this project do not have to be disclosed, but Gottlieb usually retains the land rights and partners with a development firm to work through the construction and management of the properties it controls, which may be the case here.
In July 2017, the initial mixed-use building design was brought before the New York Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) by Morris Adjmi Architects, for the William Gottlieb Real Estate firm. The design got mixed reviews, one of which reported that the same design had earlier been proposed for another Village site on Greenwich Street. The wavy wall of red brick, all the way up to the parapet wall caps, was a radical departure compared to the straight traditional facades of the historic district. This team returned to LPC with a modified design in February 2018, but still didn’t move forward.
Then in June 2020, a new team filed for demolition permits. 540 Hudson Street LLC is now listed as the owner behind the permits filed for the building at 538-544 Hudson Street, with Cayre Investments working with BKSK Architects.
David Kubik of BKSK Architects, listed as the architect of record, brought modified proposals to the LPC, keeping the appearance of the previous submittal, except for the reduced penthouse and bulkheads on the roof that got some minor revisions. It is an unusual occurrence for a design firm to be changed without an accompanying major redesign of the project, but since BKSK and Adjmi work on other Gottlieb projects, there may have been a special deal made to adopt the Adjmi designs. The BKSK design retains the previous 48,535 square feet floor area, including 26 residences and 6,000 square feet of commercial space, 73-foot-tall plus cellar, and no accessory parking.
The unique feature of the wavy red brick walls mentioned about the earlier designs may have garnered LPC approval because there is reference to typical neighborhood “punched” individual windows in sets of three, mimicking a line of row houses; only the projecting blade framing clearly differentiates them from Federalist windows.
The ground floor storefronts, with their large windows suitable for restaurants or any commercial store, line up with the sidewalk property line except to round out the corner. Brick belt courses over the storefronts form a header line, and then the brick wall begins to slowly undulate as it rises, until it becomes a corbeled cornice, projecting a couple of feet over the sidewalk, as some heavier cornices do with their traditional materials. The projecting round corner forms a turret-like roof base, dreaming of a small cone tower.
The LPC voted unanimously to approve the modified designs in late December, stating “that the presence of a visible setback penthouse floor, featuring a sloped planted roof and painted gray cladding, and limited rooftop appurtenances, including an elevator and stair bulkhead, vent, railings, and mechanical equipment, is consistent with other modern buildings in the surrounding context and some historic residential buildings within this historic district; and that the proposed work will not detract from the special architectural and historic character of the streetscape or the Greenwich Village Historic District.”
BKSK Architects has been busy lately seeking LPC approval for several other Village projects. One is the renovation and expansion of a three-story brick building at 21 Greenwich Avenue, a corner lot facing West 10th Street. Another is for a sizable commercial expansion and restoration of the historic row townhomes at the corner addresses of 44-54 Ninth Avenue and 351-355 West 14th Street. Other recent local projects by BKSK are for new condos at 144 Barrow Street, 22 and 25 Bond Street, 1 Great Jones Alley, and 175 W. 10th Street at 7th Avenue; earlier designs include 529 Broadway, the Washington Square Park Comfort Station and Ranger offices, the former Pastis restaurant location at 9-19 9th Avenue for RH showroom, 21-27 9th Avenue retail renovation, and Gansevoort Row between 9th Avenue and Washington Street.
Brian J. Pape is a LEED-AP “Green” architect consulting in private practice, serves on the Manhattan District 2 Community Board Landmarks Committee and Quality of Life Committee, is Co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, is a member of AIANY Historic Buildings Committee, and is a journalist, especially on architecture subjects.