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Big Glass Triangle Faces Public's Wrath at Landmarks Hearing

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Soho residents have already made their displeasure known concerning the Madison Capital-developed, Perkins Eastman-designed building coming to the formerly MTA-controlled lot at the corner of East Houston and Crosby streets in Soho. So it was no surprise when a few of them showed up at a Landmarks Preservation hearing yesterday to decry the mostly-glass design of the 26,700-square-foot, six-story office and retail building, which would sit right next to Forrest Myers' "Gateway to Soho."

A representative for Assemblywoman Deborah Glick called the designs "sorely out of context," and claimed that the "character of the [cast-iron] historic district would be jeopardized." Community Board 2's resolution called out the "massive and disproportionate" amount of glass. Others expressed concerns that the second-floor atrium, which would leave a large opening behind the glass facade, was designed that way in order to host a huge LED billboard that—since it would technically be inside the building—would not have to gain Landmarks approval, in effect "bringing Times Square to Soho." Also, a representative for the estate of artist Gordon Matta-Clark, who the developers apparently mentioned in some capacity during their community board presentation, showed up to denounce any possible connection between Matta-Clark's work and the building.

The pro-glass-building crowd consisted of an architect/commercial real estate broker who mentioned that he was friends with the developers, the owner of an Old Navy and an American Eagle in Soho, and a 26-year-old neighborhood resident who argued that "Soho is really a retail destination." The Landmarks commissioners agreed with that last point—it would be difficult not to—but were of two minds about the design. For the most part, they were not as fundamentally opposed to having a glass building in the cast-iron historic district as most of the members of the public, but they did think that this design in particular was perhaps a little too glassy. Commissioner Michael Goldblum said that the facade looked like a "very thin, flimsy scrim," concluding, "I'm open to other ideas but I don't think this is it." Commissioner Michael Devonshire commented that, "It's the loss of structure that makes me uneasy," and recommended that the architects increase the ratio of solids to glass. The commissioners were also in agreement that the idea of a huge, ungoverned LED billboard at the Gateway to Soho was a troubling one. The developers will have to make some changes to the designs and return to the Commission at a later date.
· 19 East Houston Street coverage [Curbed]