The Landmarks Preservation Commission has refused a proposed addition to 827-831 Broadway for the second time, obliging its designers DXA Studio to reimagine their approach once more. The plan would add offices, retail, and community space inside and above two Italianate structures built between 1866 and 1867. The source of the controversy is the addition of four floors on top of the historic buildings. Samson Klugman of Quality Capital and Leo Tsimmer of Caerus Group purchased the pair in 2015 for $60 million. They initially filed permits for a 300-foot-tall commercial tower, but that was stopped when the LPC granted the extant structures landmark status.
A significant factor to the title was the building’s history with famed artists Elaine de Kooning and Willem de Kooning, who had worked and lived within for some time with their community. The proposal by DXA was an homage to this history, particularly Willem De Kooning’s painting Excavation, a dynamic, choreographic painting. It directly inspired the glassy façade.
The bold style contributed to the tension at the latest LPC meeting. Many of the commissioners were uneasy with the style. Architect and Founder Partner of DXA Studio, Jordan Rogove commented on this, telling YIMBY, “This is one of the most challenging projects I’ve worked on because the approach, seeking inspiration from the pioneering artists that resided in the building, is quite subjective. That’s part of why there are so many opinions to be had.”
Regarding the history that transpired within the structure, Rogove added, “That is the whole argument for why we should do something more avant-garde. We’ve all walked by the building a hundred times. But none of us are cognizant of the building’s history. We want to restore the base building and build an addition that draws attention to the building and celebrate it as a vital part of the city’s history.”
In response to the opinions of the first meeting, the revised design reduces the prominence of the expanded structure by moving it eight feet further from the street, and lowering the total height by five feet. This does noticeably compromise the original intent for the glass to interact with the street level. It would have been nearly unseeable from below, though still visible from 14th Street. The revision had decreased the height, but still comprises four new floors.
Preservation of the original structure remains identical, removing paint to expose the original limestone façade. If the stone is not presentable, it will be painted over again with an identical hue. The ground floor will provide space for retail use, a community facility will operate out of the second and third floors, and offices will occupy floors two through eight.
It appears that conservation has won this second round, and while Rosgove informed YIMBY that a quorum was not met for approval, the GVSHP has Tweeted that the plans were indeed rejected.
According to Rogove, feedback from the second meeting was not as clear as the first meeting, giving the firm less direction moving forward, though conceivably more freedom as well. That has left room for speculation that a significant re-imagination of the project is possible.
To give Rogove the last word, “right now, we just came back after the presentation, disappointed but understanding of the perspectives and reservations expressed. We will evaluate commentary to figure out next steps. We have no sense of timing as of now. The original design was developed over several months. We will work until divine inspiration strikes again.”