We don't usually head to a Community Board landmark committee meeting expecting comedy and drama, but both were on view last night when architect Gene Kaufman presented a proposal for a residential conversion of 396 Broadway in the Tribeca East Historic District. Mr. Kaufman came equipped with a portfolio of line drawings for the plan. The usual practice when proposing a roof-top addition, as is planned for 396 Broadway, is to show mock-up photos of how the addition would look from streets below. But that necessary component wasn't done, starting the GAK presentation off on a very wrong foot. Local committee members noted that there is a long history between the committee and Kaufman, and that on-going relationship is filled with suspicion and distrust. Ultimately Gene was sent packing, his plan recommended for rejection.
The building in question at 396 Broadway is 10-stories of steel-framed bricks with limestone and terracotta detailing, completed in 1899 by architect William H. Berkmire. It runs for a full 175 feet along Walker Street and faces onto Cortlandt Alley, a place that echoes with past eras and is described by the committee as one of the last pre-war streetscapes still to be found downtown. The plan is to convert the former commercial space into 27 residential units, and comes from the Chetrit family, cousins of Joe Chetrit. What was seen in Kaufman's limited presentation gave no indications of glowing red tumors, any array of flashing lights, or Ronald McDonald color schemes. From what was shown so far, GAK is proposing a rather restrained transformation at the edge of Tribeca, which might come as a relief for those folks worried about his 'subtle' renovation of the Hotel Chelsea. Preservationists in search of entertainment can only hope for more substance when Kaufman and crew go before the Landmarks Commission on September 20th.
· Tribeca Building to Become Gene Kaufman-Designed Rentals [Curbed]
· Gene Kaufman coverage [Curbed]