On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission gave the okay to demolish the existing building at 8-10 West 17th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues) and construct a new one in its place.
The existing building, designed by Belfatto & Pavarini, is three-stories-tall and home to the Catholic Medical Mission Board, but is no longer adequate for them. The new building is being developed by Sherwood Equities and Arun Bhatia Development, with Richard Southwick of the preservation architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle as designer. Southwick called his design “contemporary,” yet “sympathetic” to its neighbors.
The new as-of-right building will be 16-stories-tall, with the top two floors being a duplex penthouse. The penthouse will be setback 15 feet in the front and zoning requires that it also be set back 10 feet in the rear. It will be 174 feet to the top of the penthouse, but a total of 208 feet to the top of the rooftop mechanical unit.
When it came time for the commissioners to decide on the project, a lot of time was spent on the current building. Commissioner Roberta Washington said it was “not as distinctive” as some of the architects’ other work, but it was “not ugly.” Commissioner Diana Chapin echoed that, saying it was “not such a notable example.” Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan called it “fairly plain” and said it was not the type of building the Ladies Mile Historic District was created to protect. Commissioner Michael Goldblum had no problem with the demolition, but said he was happy to see an in-depth discussion of it. In the end, they decided it was fine to demolish the building.
When it came time for them to discuss the proposed new building, little time was necessary. Srinivasan called the new building “sedate” and said it will “enrich the district.” Goldblum encouraged future applicants to go above and beyond Tuesday’s proposal, but called it “completely appropriate.” The proposal was approved unanimously. The texture of the screen over the mechanical units will, however, be refined at the LPC staff level.
The Historic Districts Council also approved of the demolition. “8-10 West 17th Street appeared in pallor compared to the examples provided of the fanciful Ladies Mile-quality buildings in the district,” HDC’s Kelly Carroll said. “Further, it is demonstrated that this building is not a colleague among the urbane, Modern buildings completed by architects Belfatto and Pavarini.” Carroll did add that the “design for the new building left something to be desired.”
The project got the support of Community Board 5 and the Real Estate Board of New York. The New York Landmarks Conservancy also backed the demolition.
A resident of 12 West 17th Street complained about the expenses his building has incurred to maintain the lot line windows. The counsel for the LPC said that while buildings in historic districts are required to maintain their lot line windows, there is no expectation that their existence should continue in perpetuity. The project team said people with lot line windows are enjoying them on “borrowed time.”
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