Danois Architects and Artimus Construction presented their plans for former bank/residential apartment building Morris Mount Bank, also known as the Corn Exchange, to the Landmarks Preservation Commission yesterday. The Queen Anne style brownstone, praised by architecture critics when it was constructed in the late 19th century, has been in unfortunate and rapid decline for the last few decades, having recently fallen into complete disrepair when a fire took out the roof and upper floor in 1997 and the top three floors had to be demolished due to structural instability. While the Commission was happy to hear about a plan to restore the building to its former glory, they weren't quite sure that this was the plan to do that. The proposal included bringing the building back to its original seven-stories but making the top floor double height, in effect making it eight-stories tall, with the bottom two floors designated for commercial use and the top five for office space.
Things really started to go downhill once a representative from the Historic Districts Council delivered testimony in which she quoted this New York Times article where architectural historian Christopher Gray said the building had "the effect of half a dozen cups of strong coffee." She then equated the new plans to decaf. Although architect David Danois asserted that his intention was to “recreate the grandeur and elegance that [the Corn Exchange] once had,” the LPC criticized that approach, saying that Danois' plans were neither a faithful restoration nor a modern counterpoint. They also questioned his proposal to use synthetic materials such as fiberglass in places that were originally stamped copper and zinc. They also called the facade "flat," and the Mansard roof "not a Mansard roof." The Commission concluded by calling the plans "a reasonable starting point, but only a starting point."
· Corn Exchange Coverage [Curbed]
· The Fall of the Corn Exchange [NYT]