A commercial building in SoHo is on its way to finding itself bigger than ever. On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved restoration work and vertical additions to two-story-tall 558 Broadway.
Located between Spring and Prince streets, 558 Broadway is a through-block site that includes 94-96 Crosby Street, where it is twice as wide. Both sides are currently two stories in height. However, when the building was constructed in 1860, it stood four stories in height. In 1916, a fire robbed the building of its top two floors. Alterations were undertaken in 1920. The site fell under the LPC’s jurisdiction in 1973, when the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District was designated. The LPC approved work on the Broadway side in both 2001 and 2010. Both of those alterations were for retailer H&M.
Now, the proposal is to make the Broadway side four stories tall and make the Crosby Street side six stories tall. Harry Kendall and David Kubik of BKSK Architects are responsible for the design.
Kendall said the renewed Broadway side will “retain all of the surviving fabric,” but end its life as a “missing tooth” on the streetscape. The new storefront on the ground floor will be centered and include the columns from the second floor. The upper two floors will feature BKSK’s recognizable terra cotta baguettes above them.
He described the Crosby Street side as “a real survivor of a façade.” He said there are no more than three layers of paint on it. Several existing elements will be retained, including a metal mesh. Shutter anchors were proposed for the upper floors.
Commissioner Michael Goldblum called the overall design “very appropriate” and said the Crosby Street proposal was “perfectly contextual.” He did want the LPC staff to work with the applicant to make sure the brick of the additions contrasts enough so as not to look like a “mistake.” He also wanted a second metal panel retained on the ground floor of the Crosby Street side. Additionally, he wanted the staff to work with the applicant on roof accretions, but whatever the result, it wouldn’t sway his vote.
Commissioner Michael Devonshire also liked the proposal, but wanted the shutter anchors eliminated. He said they present a “false history.”
Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said she would have preferred a four-story version of the building’s Crosby Street side. Commissioner Jeanne Lutfy, for her part, would have preferred the five-story version previously presented to the community board, but was okay with this.
LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said the six-story plan fits in, but keeping Crosby Street at only two stories would make it an anomaly. Overall, she said something might be lost, but something will be gained as well.
Manhattan Community Board 2 did give the project its backing, but wanted more substance on the Broadway side.
The Historic Districts Council took issue with the proposed size of the project. “Rather than analyzing the intricacies of the proposed design, HDC wishes to make a plea for the denial of this application in favor of retaining the low-rise, historic character of both 558 Broadway and 94-96 Crosby Street. Both this section of Broadway and Crosby Street are defined by their mix of heights, creating interesting urban tableaux that would be unfortunately marred by filling in the air space above this building’s two facades,” testified HDC’s Barbara Zay. “The loss of so many small-scale buildings in historic districts is an unfortunate trend that diminishes the dynamism of our historic streetscapes and dilutes the pedestrian experience that is so often touted as one of the great benefits of historic district designation. The addition of, perhaps, two floors on the Crosby Street side would have some precedent and allow the building’s massing to still read as low-rise, but four additional stories would be especially deleterious to Crosby Street.”
Peter Davies, a local resident for 37 years, also testified against the size of the proposal.
In the end, the commissioners voted to approve it. However, the LPC staff will work with the applicant on the mesh at the base of the Crosby Street side and the shutter anchors on its upper floors. With the LPC issues settled, the applicant will then need waivers from the Board of Standards and Appeals. Among the issues there is the setback requirement.
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