A three-story row house in Brooklyn is going to stay that way for the time being. On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission did not approve a proposed addition to 75 St. Marks Avenue, near the corner of Flatbush Avenue in the Prospect Heights Historic District. The problem for the commissioners was fairly simple: visibility.
The structure, complete with storefront, was designed by Octave A. DeComps and built in 1878.
The presentation was made by Lower Manhattan-based Ogawa Depardon Architects. It called for a two-story rooftop addition and a single-story year yard addition at the ground level. It also called for restoration of the façade to historic condition. The proposed end product would include a restaurant at ground level and two two-bedroom residential units above.
The rooftop addition would be one story on the front and rise to two stories on the back, for a master bedroom complete with a wet bar. It would be clad in glass and zinc.
Commissioner John Gustafsson said this structure has the unfortunate circumstance of being in a position that makes it, and any modifications to it, very visible. But that doesn’t give it a pass. The proposed additions were simply too much for him, especially given their visibility. LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan agreed, though she said some visibility could be allowed. She said the first step for the applicant should be removal of the second story of the rooftop addition.
Commissioner Michael Goldblum agreed that the second story of the addition should be lopped off and he suggested a straight mansard addition. Commissioner Diana Chapin said the proposal was inappropriate and Commissioner Frederick Bland called echoed his colleagues, saying any addition needs to be minimally visible.
Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City testified that there just isn’t room for two full-size apartments in the building. She said the proposal “destroys the original massing.”
The Historic Districts Council’s Kelly Carroll also objected to the proposal. “While perfectly fine the way it has existed for 138 years, suddenly, in 2016’s real estate market, no. 75 now has the misfortune of being half of a story shorter than its brownstone neighbors along this stately block. Thus, this space above its roofline must be maxed out, and its proposed enlargement is an affront to the block, the house, and the district. Visible rooftop additions are not a hallmark of the Prospect Heights Historic District, and further, this pseudo-studio configuration is unprecedented here,” she testified. “While the front is proposed to be expanded as tall as the other buildings, the rear of the building will grow to be taller than the rest of the row. The rooftop addition should be eliminated from view, and the rear addition should be scaled down to one story, not two.”
Danae Oratowski of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council said approving this addition would be a “dramatic departure” from previous commission decisions and that if they said yes, “anything goes from here on out.”
In the end, the commissioners told the applicant to come back with a revised proposal, one that would certainly include the removal of the second story of the rooftop addition.
See the full presentation slides below: