190 Bowery is on its way to a rebirth. The building that sits at the corner of Bowery and Spring Street will once again become an office building with ground floor retail, but will keep the graffiti that has accumulated over the years, thanks to approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The six-story building was designed by Robert Maynicke and completed in 1899. It served as the offices of Germania Bank (and its future names) until it was sold in 1966 and became a private residence. In 2005, it was designated an individual landmark. Last year, it was purchased by Aby Rosen’s RFR Realty for $55 million. They plan to restore the building and convert it back to office space, with the ground floor for an as yet undetermined retail tenant.
On Tuesday, Jørgen Cleemann of the preservation architecture firm Higgins Quasebarth & Partners presented his plan to the LPC, with help from MdeAS Architects. The plan calls for restoration of metal gates, wooden doors, stained glass, and other elements, but not removing the graffiti or cleaning the façade. Some lot line windows will be removed and re-inserted because they need to be sealed per fire code. Other window work was already being handled at the LPC staff level (meaning it didn’t need a formal public hearing).
Commissioner Frederick Bland called 190 Broadway an “extraordinary building” and applauded the “gentleness” of the proposal. He praised retention of the graffiti as an “interesting show of art.” Commissioner Diana Chapin called the proposal “very sensitive.” Commissioner Michael Goldblum said the building would be a “jewel box” and called the proposal “fantastic,” adding that it will be a “real testament to the layering that preservationists seek.”
Community Board 2 recommended and approved it, and the Historic Districts Council was also quite enthusiastic about the proposal.
“HDC applauds the sensitive restoration of this exquisite Bowery landmark. Even the new entrance has been designed carefully so that the historic fabric that is removed will be reincorporated into the building, unlike so many applications where fabric is merely discarded,” HDC’s Kelly Carroll said. “Further, so many landmarked buildings are altered with additions and alterations in exchange for kind restorations. This example shows that it is possible to restore without adding square footage, and we find that remarkable.”
Mitchell Gruber of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors called the restoration work “highly commendable,” but was against the creation of a new ADA entrance on Spring Street. He called for the Bowery Street office entrance to be made accessible. But Cleemann said that would result in damage to the interior. The commissioners agreed that the approach to creating the new entrance on Spring was sensitive enough and the project was approved very easily.