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Landmarks Commission on Soho Frankenbuilding: Try Again

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Last we saw of 74 Grand Street, the proposed replacement for the now-demolished Leaning Tower of Soho, it was facing the wrath of Community Board 2's Landmarks Committee when architect Joe Levine unveiled plans to incorporate the departed building's cast iron facade by holding it at arm's length as one would a rotten piece of meat. Yesterday, Levine, undaunted, took the design to face the Landmarks Preservation Commission, who mandated the inclusion of the facade in the first place. Their far more polite wrath mostly consisted of each commissioner finding a slightly different way of saying that the old facade "lacks engagement" with the new building, leaving the real wrathfulness to representatives from the Historic District Council, the Society for the Architecture of the City, and CB2, all of whom strongly recommended denial. "HDC is quite happy the cast iron is returning to its home," said the HDC's Nadezhda Williams. "Unfortunately, this is not quite the homecoming we had in mind."

Levine's presentation was, for the most part, the same one that he delivered to CB2 last week. He vacillated between painting the new design as an actual architectural statement—bridging the gap between classic and contemporary and all that—and as a clever way to comply with new fire codes. The Commission was unconvinced by the fire code part, but largely sympathetic to the challenge that the project presented, if not to the particular solution that Levine had in mind. As is customary, they declined to vote and instead instructed the architects to work with Landmarks staff and return at a later date. Multiple commissioners indicated that they had no issue with the approach itself—one cited 172 Duane Street as a more successful example of it—just with the execution, so it seems likely that the LPC will be amenable to allowing a different version of the same basic idea to be constructed at some point in the near future.

Unlike the hideous, eight-foot-tall monster that destroyed Dr. Frankenstein after he created it from a disparate mixture of dead body parts, Levine's eight-story (plus penthouse) Frankenbuilding, created from a disparate mixture of dead building parts, will probably not be his ultimate undoing. Whether the same can be said for the character of the Cast Iron Historic District remains to be seen.
· 74 Grand Street coverage [Curbed]

74 Grand Street

74 Grand Street, New York, NY