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St. Luke Scales Back Expansion Plans, Winning Landmarks' OK

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If at first you don't succeed—yeah, you know. Trying again is what worked for the Church of St. Luke in the Fields and the now scaled-back expansion plans for its West Village campus, which include a bigger school and a new apartment building on the site of a corner parking lot. Much debated by community residents and neighborhood preservationists, the Landmarks Preservation Commission sent St. Luke's team back to the drawing board in March.

Located in the West Village between Christopher, Greenwich, Barrow, and Hudson streets, the church and its crew returned to the LPC yesterday. Reps came armed with revised plans by Andrew Bartle Architects for modifying the existing St. Luke's School building at 657 Greenwich Street, and others by Barry Rice Architects for down-sizing and modifying the design for a new apartment building at 100 Barrow Street. Both were approved without much fuss.

While the mission remains to add two stories and make other rooftop modifications, there were several tweaks made to the school's design since the March 11 presentation. Chief among them was the introduction of a better blended color palate. Also, the materials being used will supposedly be more energy-efficient.

As for the apartment building, the height was reduced by 32 feet from 153 feet to 121 feet and the base was changed to Flemish bond brick. It was presented as a "continuation not a re-creation" of the area's architecture that will complement the existing 1830s townhouse brick.

The windows will be inoperable, but will, at least on the upper floors, feature full-height vents that will be impossible for a child to get through, meaning that safety bars will be unnecessary. (Safety bars are not things of which Landmarks folks approve, but buyers kinda want windows that open.)

The LPC commended the church for reducing the apartment building's height, saying it will help keep the church in focus, is much more appropriate, more "respectful," and more restrained.

While no testimony was given today, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation did express its dismay over the decision. "We are deeply disappointed that the Landmarks Preservation Commission moved so quickly to approve the design, and did so without allowing the public an additional opportunity to review and comment on the revised designs," Amanda Davis, the society's director of preservation and research, said in a statement. "Today's approval speaks to several ongoing issues with the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the manner in which it hears and considers such items—issues we hope to see change with new leadership at the Commission."

UPDATE: The church just responded with its take on yesterday's meeting in a statement by Mother Caroline Stacey, Rector for the Church of St. Luke in the Fields.

"We are thrilled that that the Landmarks Preservation Commission agrees that the new residential building will be an appropriate contextual addition to the historic district. We are delighted that 20 percent of the units will be affordable housing. We are also pleased that the approval of the school addition will enable more than 100 new seats to be added and will augment the church's partnership with St. Luke's School into the future. This has been a community effort; we appreciate the input our neighbors gave us as we pursued the redevelopment of our parking lot. The LPC's decision... will mean great things for the St. Luke's community. The Church will be able to enter the next chapter of its history with a stronger financial footing and an enhanced capacity to serve the community." No date was given for the project's completion. But if you ever find yourself in the area, take a few minutes to walk through the church's lovely little public garden area. The entrance is on Hudson Street.
Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· St. Luke Expansion Plans to be Revised for LPC [Curbed]
· Check Out St. Luke's Debated Village Tower And Expansion [Curbed]
· Mapping 10 Preservation Battles Being Waged In NYC Right Now [Curbed]
· All St. Luke coverage [Curbed]