The IFC Center, deeply in need of more space, is one step closer to an expansion. The Landmarks Preservation Commission recently approved plans for the movie theater at Sixth Avenue and West 3rd Street to expand to a vacant lot behind it at 14-16 Cornelia Street. That would bump IFC’s five theaters seating a total of 480 people to 11 theaters seating a total of 948 people, while also clearing out the sidewalk with added lobby space.
The IFC Center itself is the city’s oldest continuously operating movie theater. Prior to it becoming the IFC Center in 2005, it was the Waverly Theater, and that had operated since 1937. Before that, it was J. Lamb Ecclesiastical Art Works and several churches. The lot on Cornelia Street has been vacant for decades and currently serves as a fire exit for the IFC. The proposal was before the LPC because the site is within the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II, which was designated on June 22, 2010.
The proposal was designed by architect Frances Halsband of Kliment Halsband Architects. In addition to new theaters, including ones in the cellar and on the third floor, there would be an expanded lobby space, which is just as badly needed as any other part of this project. Currently, a lot of moviegoers gather out on Sixth Avenue because there really isn’t room for all of them to wait inside. This proposal would have a large lobby space on the Cornelia Street side, though it would only be accessible from Sixth Avenue. There would be exit doors on the Cornelia Street façade, whose cornice line would match its neighbors and hide mechanical equipment.
Speaking of which, it was the Cornelia Street façade which prevented the project from being approved at the public hearing on October 13. The large glass windows were too much of a tease for the commissioners. Now, in addition to being reconfigured, they will be heavily frosted and have zinc panels in between them.
This is “inviting” without actual access, but without being too much of a tease, LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said. “[The] materials relate to the architecture of the entire building,” she added. “Nice job.” Some commissioners didn’t have a problem with either the original or revised proposals. Commissoner Adi Shamir-Baron still wasn’t satisfied, saying it is a mistake to treat a streetfront façade like the back of a building. It is the back of the building.
Regardless, the proposal was approved by the commissioners. Of course, that doesn’t mean it will happen. Variances are needed. So, the applicant still has to get past the Board of Standards and Appeals.
One last note: An additional piece of this proposal is the reconfiguring of the front doors on Sixth Avenue. Instead of four doors right next to each other, there will be two sets of double doors.
See the full presentation slides here: