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Landmarks Commission Bummed Out by Boring New 74 Grand

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When the Landmarks Preservation Commission encountered the designs for the Soho Frankenbuilding—the new development trying, with calamitous results, to find some way around its mandate to incorporate an old cast iron facade —back in March, the reaction was not exactly enthusiastic. The commissioners agreed that the designs should be reworked so that the old facade was more "engaged" with the new building, and that perhaps the misalignment of the facade and the building was the wrong approach, and also that the building might be too big. The criticism prompted architect Joe Levine to either quit the project or get fired. It also prompted the new design team to draw up plans that include quite a lot of facade engagement, in that the new building will basically just be a reconstruction of the old building (plus a two-story penthouse, of course). This really bummed the Landmarks Commission out.

While they hadn't been thrilled by Levine's solution, the commissioners had found the challenge of incorporating the old facade into a new building to be an enticing one. And they were not at all pleased by the cutting of the Gordian Knot that the new plan amounted to. "The current scheme is timid, bland," said commissioner Fred Bland. "You can't oppose it, but goodness, what an opportunity lost." Another commissioner accused the new architects of "wuss[ing] out." Ire gave way to sadness, however, as they realized that this was the design they were going to have to approve, leading more than one commissioner to practically pine for the lost Frankenbuilding. Chair Robert Tierney declared the plans "totally appropriate, if uninspiring," and it seemed that the project was on its way to getting green-lit.

What ended up preventing that from happening was that the commission was split on whether—since the new building would basically be a scale recreation of the old one—the two-story penthouse should be treated as an addition, and, if so, whether it was a floor too large. Around half of the commissioners thought that it was, while they other half contended that whatever, who even cares any more, why do we bother? Ultimately, they didn't so much make the decision to delay voting as they just sort of trailed off and moved on to the next item on the agenda.

· 74 Grand Street coverage [Curbed]

74 Grand Street

74 Grand Street, New York, NY