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LPC Hosts Showdown Over 15 Leonard Street Condo Plan

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It's not every day that a new building design is compared to Darth Vader, but that's exactly what went down at the Landmarks Preservation Commission yesterday when the proposal for a new condo development at 15 Leonard Street came up for review. Opposing teams turned out for the hearing, representing those for and against a plan to replace two one-story garages with a metallic and glass facade rising amidst the bricks of Tribeca. The developer is Steven Schnall, creator of $24 million worth of suburban bliss on N. Moore, and he came armed with his design crew and lots of visuals.

The plan is definitely in a more modern mode than the historic neighbors along Leonard Street. A block of grey sits atop a glassy two-story base, fronted by four big garage doors running 75 feet along Leonard Street. Filings at DOB show indications for a "commercial parking garage" in the cellar, and the developer has affidavits on file to show that the old garages at 15 Leonard have a history of vehicle parking and storage. But the neighbors showed up, too, and came with some paperwork of their own: petitions filled with 150 signatures, all in opposition to the big plan for little Leonard Street.
Up above the parking zone rises a five-story "shaft" of asymmetrical windows and channel glass framed in painted steel, all very severe and, well, somewhat Vader-ish. There's an additional two-story section up high, part of the four-bedroom triplex penthouse. 15 Leonard will have a total of six units inside, with four full-floor units, each covering 2,600 square feet on floors three through six. Down low will be a 6,000-square-foot maisonette rising up three floors from the basement, planned as the future home for the Schnall family. (If we were them, we would have stayed in Our Suburb.)

Nearby resident Eric Bogosian was on hand to speak out against the proposal. He also assisted in a neighbor-led show-and-tell detailing the faults of the 15 Leonard plan. A key objection is the "unprecedented" size of the penthouse, which was shown to encompass roughly 1/3 of the structure, whereas a survey of Tribeca penthouses shows that the most nearby penthouses are in the 1/7 range. The design for 15 Leonard, unanimously rejected by Community Board 1, rendered a split decision amongst the commissioners.

Some thought the 15 Leonard plan to be thoroughly appropriate, both in massing and materials. But others deemed the asymmetrical fenestration to be "all over the place" and "tiresome." The generic treatment of the rear facade was found to be "too hotel-y." The penthouse section was seen as "too big, too obvious." One simply said the overall design is "clumsy." To pile it on, a reference to Harry Partch and two dented fenders from an old volkswagen were tossed into the mix. In the end, the yeas and nays among the commissioners cancelled each other out. That means it's back to the drawing board for the 15 Leonard team, with changes to be worked out with the LPC staff before another presentation at some time in the future, possibly far, far away.
· Our Suburb Developer Unveils Plans for 15 Leonard Street [Curbed]
· Cost of a Private Tribeca Suburb: Around $24 Million [Curbed]