William Gottlieb Real Estate and Aurora Capital’s Meatpacking District proposal is not yet a go. On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission took no action on the BKSK Architects-designed project on the block from 46-74 Gansevoort Street, between Greenwich Street and Washington Street, in the Gansevoort Market Historic District. The commissioners didn’t seem like they’d require the current low-scale structures to remain as is, but certainly had issues with just how big they’d get and just how it would look.
When the proposal was presented in November, the session ended after public testimony, which was lengthy and almost entirely in opposition. So, today picked up with the design team responding to that and then the commissioners discussing the project.
The project involves five sites on the block. Here now, we’ll give you brief descriptions of the proposal for each site. For a more lengthy explanation, view our story from last Friday, where we heard from project architects Harry Kendall and Todd Poisson.
46-48 Gansevoort Street would remain two-stories tall, but be restored and feature slightly reconfigured openings and new marquees, plus a restored skylight. Two-story-tall 50 Gansevoort Street would be replaced with a three-story building that would read as a four-story building and could be connected internally to 46-48. 52-58 Gansevoort Street, the which recently was emblazened with the words “GANSEVOORT MARKET,” would remain two-stories-tall and have little restorative work. It would become the new home of the Pastis restaurant. Two-story-tall 60-68 Gansevoort Street would grow to a five-story-tall building with a one-story-tall setback penthouse. One-story-tall 70-74 Gansevoort Street would be replaced by a six-story building with a two-story-tall setback penthouse.
“We treasure the market history,” Kendall told the commissioners. Preservation consultant Cas Stachelberg of Higgins Quasebarth & Partners spoke of the area as having a “continuing evolution” and Kendall noted that the real Gansevoort Market was actually to the northwest of this block, with 46-48 Gansevoort Street having been the only purpose-built market building.
In addition to November’s public testimony, LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan noted that the commission received 820 e-mails in opposition to the proposal, as well as statements from City Council Member Corey Johnson, Save Gansevoort, the Victorian Society, and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP). The commission also received a petition in favor of it with 30 signatures and statements of support from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Association for a Better New York (ABNY), and the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY).
Srinivasan said it was a “fairly challenging proposal” for them as “protectors and preservers of historic districts.” She agreed that there is variety in the scale and typology of the district and said that the proposal would allow the full block to embrace a vision. She could support the concept and approach, but not its proposed execution. She said the penthouse at 60-68 was at odds with the restoration of its previous size and that 70-74 should have shorter floor-to-ceiling heights and that its proposed penthouse was “problematic.”
Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said it was “really important to defend the two-story [condition] to defend the new heyday of the area.” She also wasn’t happy with the idea of treating the entire block at once instead of allowing change over time.
Before going into Commissioner Frederick Bland’s comments, it is important to note that much of the block was once much taller. It’s the basis of the proposal. However, the shrinking at some sites wasn’t done with care. Bland referred to some of it as “decapitation,” which he said must be treated differently than if you had a somewhat out of character condition that had been added to a building, a mansard roof in his example. He said the basic concept put forth was good, but he wanted to keep 50 Gansevoort low. He said there should be no penthouse at 60-68 and that its floor heights should be cut so as to shorten the building overall, and that the proposal for 70-74 was one story too tall and its penthouse was “gratuitous.” Commissioners John Gustafsson said he wouldn’t waste anybody’s time by saying any more than that he agreed with Commissioner Bland. Commissioner Diana Chapin echoed their sentiments.
Commissioner Michael Goldblum said they are forced to choose between their “desire to freeze it in place” and the “objective view of preservation where growth and change is part of the deal.” That said, he also wanted 50 Gansevoort to stay a two-story building. He also said the proposed architecture was “a bit too much” for a more “simple” area.
“New York City’s always undergoing changes,” said Commissioner Wellington Chen. “Where’s that Kodak moment?” he asked of exactly what defines the block.
Chair Srinivasan summarized what the design team needs to do when they return to the commission. 50 Gansevoort Street needs to be rethought. 60-68 Gansevoort Street’s penthouse needs to be eliminated. 70-74 Gansevoort Street’s scale needs to be re-studied, with no penthouse and a possible reduction in floor-to-ceiling heights. She also said the architecture might need to be simplified and some of the proposed marquees (or canopies) seemed too “elaborate.”
“Today’s hearing was an important step toward ensuring the rich, unique history of the Gansevoort Market Historic District lives on. This is an opportunity to tell the complete story of this neighborhood’s evolution over the past 130 years,” a spokesman for the project told YIMBY. “We are proud to put forth a plan that will connect New Yorkers to these great, lost periods in the history of the Meatpacking District, and look forward to continuing to work with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to secure the necessary approval.”
As for the opposition, Save Gansevoort’s Zack Winestine said today’s result was what they expected. “We’re happy that they heard our concerns,” he said, adding that it “would be a great loss for the city” if the block’s two-story profile were to go away.
We don’t yet know when the revised proposal will go before the commission, but rest assured, we plan to be there. So, stay tuned.
View the full presentation slides below: