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Village Residents Angered by 'Generic' Gansevoort St. Revamp

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[Rendering via BKSK Architects]

Last night, roughly 100 Greenwich Village and Meatpacking District residents with "Save Gansevoort Street!" stickers showed up to protest development plans for a stretch of Gansevoort Street between Ninth Avenue and Washington Street at the Community Board 2 landmarks committee hearing. Because the stretch is within the Gansevoort Market Historic District, the proposal—which includes high-end retail and commercial space—has to go through CB2 and then the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The community is doing its best to discourage developers Aurora Capital Partners, who sent Todd Poisson, principal at BKSK Architects, and Cas Stachelberg, of historic preservation advisor Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, to make a case for the plan.


[BKSK presenting to the crowd]

The developer's presentation started with Stachelberg, of Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, providing some historic context to the block. He argued that "this block is about change, variety, and adaptive reuse," noting that the five buildings on the site (which span three parcels) have been altered significantly over the years. He noted that 50 Gansevoort Street's facade was changed in the 1950s and is no longer considered a historic addition to the block; the stretch of 52-58 Gansevoort was reconstructed as a market in the 30s; and 60-68 Gansevoort was once five tenement buildings cut down to two stories for market use. He said the one-story garage at 70-74 Gansevoort is considered "non-contributing" to the historic district, and the plan is to tear it down along with 50 Gansevoort.


[The current site via BKSK Architects]

"This district lacks the consistency of the Greenwich Village Historic District," Stachelberg told the crowd. "It's the continual evolution of buildings in this district that give it its significance." He called the plan "a combination of preservation and new construction."


[The site plan via BKSK Architects]

Poisson of BKSK was up next to offer details on the architecture. Off the bat, he noted that the underlying zoning allows the developer to build up to 155,000 square feet—but they're only choosing to build 114,000 total. BKSK's plans include a restoration of the two-story brick building at 46-50 Gansevoort Street without any enlargement.


[46-50 Gansevoort Street via BKSK Architects]


[Marquee and facade closeup at 46-50 Gansevoort via BKSK Architects]

As for 50 Gansevoort, currently a two-story brick building, they want to tear it down and replace it with a three-story building. The building will have a historically-inspired marquee, as well as "lace work" of cut aluminum decorating the facade and lace work laser cut into metal within the building's glass marquees. This "lace work" will be used throughout the development, inspired by the elevated rail trestle that once ran through the neighborhood.


[52-58 Gansevoort Street via BKSK Architects]

At 52-58 Gansevoort, which currently houses the Gansevoort Market, they want to restore the facade and extend the building in the rear. It will not get a vertical addition.


[60-68 Gansevoort Street via BKSK Architects]

At 60-68 Gansevoort, the former five-story tenement buildings cut down to two stories, BKSK is proposing to "bring back the five-story street wall," as Poisson said. Some of the ground floor will be retained, the existing marquee will be kept, and the addition will be brick with white cast stone details. There will be a set-back floor on top of the building that brings its height to 83 feet.


[70-74 Gansevoort Street via BKSK Architects]


[70-74 Gansevoort Street from Washington Street via BKSK]

BKSK's most ambitious plan for the low-rise street is 70-74 Gansevoort, a one-story garage proposed for demolition. BKSK wants to build a six-story building with a two-story setback reaching 112 feet. Poisson noted that the height of the building is consistent with nearby Washington Street, which also has taller structures. The light gray brick facade was inspired by the High Line and the marquees on the block. There will be wood lace work integrated into the brick, as well as a prominent glass and metal storefront. There will also be lace work laser cut onto the metal spandrels facing Washington Street.


[70-74 Gansevoort from the High Line via BKSK]

The two-story setback is particularly interesting, and what Poisson described as "a sculptural form" inspired by the surrounding water tanks. It's a curving glass wall with a wood screen over it. It will be visible from the High Line and illuminated at night. There's no tenant set to occupy that upper-floor space yet.


[The crowd last night]

But the community wasn't buying the argument of the historically changing streetscape. Many speakers emphasized the unique, low-rise character of this block and how it was an essential element of the historic district. "We've had 75 years of low-rise buildings," said one resident.

Andrew Berman, executive director of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, had some of the harshest words for the plan. "This proposal is absolutely, fundamentally wrong," he said. "This is not change, it's obliteration…it destroys the reason of why we got this area landmarked." He pointed out that mechanicals add extra height to the buildings, and discouraged the demolition of any structures on the stretch. He felt the addition to the Gansevoort Market "destroys the intact market buildings and overpowers the existing buildings."

Another woman criticized the architecture, saying "these are boring, generic structures, found anywhere in the USA." Someone called the two-story glass addition "an ode to a water tower but 40 times bigger." Another woman's urge "to rehabilitate, not demolish," was met with applause from the crowd. Many people from the crowd were part of a Save Gansevoort campaign which has circulated a petition against the development.

At the end of the meeting, members of CB2 asked if anyone in the crowd supported the plan; none did. Residents plan to show up to the upcoming hearing with the Landmarks Preservation Commission on October 27, when the final decision on the design will be made.

Plan to Rebuild Historic Gansevoort Street Outrages Neighbors [Curbed]
Developers Collude to Remake Huge Swath of Gansevoort St. [Curbed]