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'Really Huge' Soho Building Finally Inches Closer to Reality

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The latest in a storied really long line of homes for cars that are getting supplanted by homes for people is nearing approval. An existing garage and parking lot on Wooster Street in Soho might very well be replaced by an eight-story building—seven stories plus a penthouse. Roger Bittenbender of the real estate investment firm Kub Capital presented the design to Community Board 2's Land Use Committee last night. Considering that local artists have protested the project—calling it "way out of scale"—the evening went almost as well as the developer could have hoped.

The building would be almost 90 feet tall and have a lightwell that would help get sunshine into the homes of the neighbors next door at 152 Wooster Street. The upper floors would be all residential, and there would be retail units on the first floor separated by the residential entrance. (Those protesting artists, who sued to stop the development back in 2013, were worried about the possibility of a "mall-type store.") Each of the retail units would be about 3,000 square feet, which satisfies a previous committee recommendation that those spaces not exceed 3,600 square feet.

Probably to placate the neighbors, this design is smaller than buildings previously proposed for the site, and smaller than the as-of-right envelope. A previous proposal called for guest rooms in the cellar. Those have been eliminated. Also eliminated were proposals for a sub-cellar and a sunken garden. Kub's own Daniel Schillberg is designing the building, with HTO-Architect as the associate architect on the project.

Despite its perhaps now-unobjectionable size, the project had to go before CB2's Land Use Committee because the developer is seeking several waivers from the city. If granted, they would allow retail use and balconies on floors four through six. Builders also want to exceed the six-story maximum of the existing street wall by one story and reduce the initial setback of the eighth floor from 20 feet to 15 feet. (That allows the penthouse to be slightly larger.)

There are other overt efforts to play nice with the neighbors, too. The developer is offering to give 152 Wooster residents new lot line windows, bathroom vents, and light/air easements to make up for the loss of several lot line windows.

In an executive session, the committee leaned towards approval, but was concerned about how much light would be emitted by the retail units. One member of the board expressed disdain for other retail outlets that have bright LED screens pushed right up against the windows.

When the public meeting was opened to comment, one man who lives at 125 Greene Street admitted the design was an improvement over previous proposals, but said it was still "really huge" and he had "great fear."

Since the lot sits in the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District, the proposal must go before the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission. A prior proposal, by the way, was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2012, but a change in ownership and that neighborly lawsuit brought the project back to the drawing board. The LPC hearing for this building is currently scheduled for March 3, though the agenda isn't usually solid until the week before.

—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.
· Soho Artists Sue LPC To Stop Eight-Story Condo Building [Curbed]
· Mapping the Development Boom Displacing New York's Cars [Curbed]
· All Landmarks coverage [Curbed]

150 Wooster St

150 Wooster Street, Manhattan, NY 10012