The Cast Iron Historic District has been awaiting a replacement for the late 74 Grand, also known as the Leaning Tower of Soho, for about three years. And, well, here that replacement is. But in order to fully understand what, exactly, it is, a quick recap is probably in order: In 2004, the owner of a Soho lot did some hasty and ill-considered excavations that resulted in the 118-year-old co-op building next door (74 Grand) beginning to slowly tip over. In most cases, this would have prompted a quick demolition, but since 74 Grand sat within the borders of a historic district, the Landmarks Preservation Commission had to sign off first. Complicating matters even further, 74 Grand featured one of the very cast-iron facades that gave the district its name, so the LPC added a caveat that when it was demolished, the facade had to be disassembled and stored, and that anything built on that site in the future would have to incorporate the old facade. Fast forward to the present day and the site has been purchased in an all-cash transaction for $4.95 million by a gentleman named Joshua Holmes, who has plans to construct condos where the co-ops once stood.
Mr. Holmes would like, if possible, to build a whole bunch of condos. However, the original building—and, by extension, its facade—was only five stories high, with floors of varying heights, and also not all that wide. So he brings on Bone/Levine Architects to abide by the letter of the law, if not the spirit, and design a new, eight-story (plus duplex penthouse) structure that includes the original facade while having absolutely nothing to do with it whatsoever. The result, which was revealed at a Community Board 2 Landmarks Committee hearing yesterday evening, is, uh, that thing in the pictures, and it's kind of difficult to describe. A marriage of the old and the new? Possibly, but one that was arranged by a spiteful parent and not entered into willingly by either party. Here are a few of the phrases that architect Joe Levine tossed out during his presentation:
· "Caught between two eras."
· "Independent from the dimensions of the historic facade."
· "The new building is modest and honestly contemporary."
· "It was designed with glass and metal so as not to compete with the historic facade."
· "We had to liberate ourselves from the historic facade."
So just take your pick of those. There was also something about how, had the old facade actually been incorporated, the building wouldn't have met newer fire codes. It was somewhat difficult to follow and didn't sound all that convincing.
The Landmarks Committee was not impressed.
· 74 Grand Street coverage [Curbed]