Architect Morris Adjmi's bold plan for a new office building sprouting out of an old Meatpacking District warehouse at 837 Washington Street got some love from the Landmarks Preservation Commission yesterday, but not enough to get the project to second base. The commissioners praised the design but found it wrong for the Gansevoort Market Historic District, instructed developer Taconic Investment Partners to sharpen its butcher's knife. Despite a stack of supportive letters from nearby property owners and positive testimony from the Romanoff family, whose site kitty-korner across Washington Street just outside the historic district has been approved for a new 200' tower, the LPC sided with community naysayers who were against the 8-story plan.
Adjmi and adviser Bill Higgins together laid out the genesis of the torqued framework as an expression of the movement and flow of people and goods through the area as it grew from a small village to a center of commerce. But the commissioners thought the 100' building to be too tall for the two-story base that would hold it. They asked for precedent in the area that would allow for such a plan, but the cited examples were all outside the historic district. The design team explained that the idea for the grid of steel beams, rotating slightly around a taller brick core, was born from the way city streets come together on this block at Washington and West 13th Street.
This is where the old downtown street grid, running diagonally across the lower part of Manhattan, intersects with the later 1811 Plan that created the familiar orthogonal grid of streets covering Manhattan to the north. Still, no dice, so it's back to the drawing board, with the development team trying to figure out a way to build something dynamic and new while constrained by the restrictive rules and the context of the low-slung warehouses that line the streets of the historic district. New plans will be drawn up, but no date has been set for a repeat performance.
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