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Landmarks Approves Conversion of Artist's Former Home

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The Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved the restoration and conversion of 7 East 19th Street, a five-story building between Broadway and Fifth Avenue that dates back to 1886 and used to belong to the late Chinese-born artist Wen-Ying Tsai, on Tuesday. The building is currently in very poor condition, having lost many original elements, including its cornice. However, architect Jeffrey Cole, who presented to the LPC, will restore the façade, recreating many of those elements based on original plans.

The cornice turned out to be a point of contention, as Cole had planned make it out of fiberglass, which the commissioners, led by Michael Devonshire, objected to. In their approval, they mandated that it be constructed out of metal. The entryway and storefront will also be reconfigured and windows will be replaced.

The LPC also approved sending a report to the City Planning Commission allowing the conversion of the second floor from commercial to residential, as Cole argued that the floors above that are already residential as-of-right. The plans also show a penthouse addition, but since it's not visible from the street it was not taken into consideration.

Commissioner Adi-Shamir Baron called the current block "sad" and said it would be great to see this building restored. Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan also said that it would be a "great improvement."

Srinivasan noted an approval from Community Board 5. The Historic Districts Council was concerned about materials, but should be satisfied by the LPC-mandated metal. "HDC applauds the restoration of this elegant store building, especially the reintroduction of the parapet," HDC's Barbara Zay said.

—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]