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Landmarks Approves Bronx Post Office's Tranformation

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The Bronx General Post Office has been given the green light for redevelopment as retail, office, and restaurant space, with a portion carved out for the post office to remain. The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a revised proposal on Tuesday—not a surprise, as the project was well on its way to approval when it was presented last month.

Young Woo & Associates paid $19 million for the landmarked 1937 building in 2014, and are planning space for a market and other retail, plus the post office, on the ground and main floors. The upper two floors will be office space. The roof will house a restaurant (possibly a beer garden, according to the presenters) with a retractable roof. The design comes from Jay Valgora of Studio V Architecture along with Cas Stachelberg of the preservation firm Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, who presented the second time around.

One of the issues when the proposal was first presented in January was the roof, which presented itself in a less than uniform fashion. The layout, previously L-shaped, has been reconfigured into a largely rectangular design and bulkheads have been pushed back, to the approval of the commissioners.

Another big issue was a large sign near the top of the building on the rear, which has since been eliminated. Also along the rear, the proposal included two stairs leading from the plinth on the main level down to what is called the ground level along Anthony J. Griffin Place, which is the entrance for the office tenants. Multiple commissioners felt the stairs were unnecessary given the cross-access within the building, so the applicant redesigned them to make them simpler constructions and convinced the commissioners that they are necessary as they present direct access to retail as compared to accessing it indirectly through the office entrance.

The rear retail entries under the stairs have been reconfigured to line up with the existing geometry above. Also at issue along Anthony J. Griffin Place was signage over the canopy that covers what is now the loading dock, but will become mostly the office entrance. The signage was centered over that office entrance portion, not on the canopy as a whole, which was corrected.

In addition, there will be restorations on the exterior as well as the landmarked lobby, including its 13 murals. Originally, the lobby was entered through one of three vestibules. Over the years, those were removed and two of the swing doors were replaced with revolving doors. Now everything is coming full circle, as the revolving doors will be replaced with swing doors and the center vestibule will be restored. Also, three of the windows (every other one) will be extended down to create new main floor entries along 149th Street. Additionally, a small section of the plinth will be connected by stone staircase to the sloping sidewalk on 149th Street.

LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan called the rear façade "better rationalized." Commissioner Frederick Bland said it was a "great proposal before" and the changes "make [it] even better."

—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.
· All Landmarks Preservation coverage [Curbed]
· All Bronx General Post Office coverage [Curbed]