The battle over a plan to build a hotel next to the 182-year-old Merchant House Museum rolls on towards its third year. In its meeting on Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission sent architect Ed Carroll away to come back with design revisions yet again, more than a year after he first presented the plans.
As expected, supporters of the Merchant's House turned up in full force, concerned that the proposed nine-story building's construction would damage the historic townhouse and the items inside. Carroll, of SRA Architecture and Engineering, tried to argue that the Parks Department had already approved a proposed vibration monitoring system and evaluated the museum. The museum has its own engineer reviewing the house for hypothetical future damage as well. But in the end commissioners seemed more willing to okay the plans than they have beforebut quite not yet. "I don't think the world stops around historic buildings," said LPC chair Robert Tierney. "This is a city that was built around historic buildings." However, he added, "There's no way any of us will really know what will happen but I can't think of another interior that's more important to our history than this one."
Merchant's House supporters, needless to say, were pleased with the LPC's decision. "We're glad the commission understands what a threat the construction could be to the home," said Margaret "Pi" Gardiner, executive director of the museum. Those worried about the museum's future were also less than confident about the engineers hired by the developer to study its project's potential impact on the museum. "We don't think their plan is sufficient," said Nick Nicholson, Merchant House board chair.
The commission spent a good bit of time discussing the redesign of the building, which would replace a single-story garage with a hotel several floors taller than the museum. (An updated rendering was shown to commissioners, but Curbed's request for a soft copy was denied.) "I think the developer heard what we were asking for [in the revision] but something about the design just doesn't work for me," said commissioner Michael Goldblum.
Imagine this: Carroll's new design cuts the building down from 100 feet and six inches to 91 feet, and sets the storefront back a foot. A beige frame and brick siding (which would stretch over the museum) was replaced by a sleeker dark gray, and lighting for the back was added. Commissioners rejected the lighting and asked for masonry details to be reincorporated into the design. Goldblum called the plan "neither contemporary nor historic." Other commissioners said the design just needs to be tweaked. So see you back at Landmarks, Ed Carroll.
· Merchant's House Supporters Gear Up For Final Battle [Curbed]
· All Merchant House Museum coverage [Curbed]