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FiDi Neighbors Do Not Want An 'Obnoxious' Light-Up Hotel

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Maiden Lane in the Financial District may be packed with office workers during the day, but at night, the narrow street becomes a quiet, calm residential area. But a hotel planned to replace now-unused buildings near the new Marriott at Broadway could add a little Times Square-esque spice, worrying neighbors. Indigo Hotel, planned for 8-12 Maiden Lane, is a product of W & L Group Construction and architect Gene Kaufman, who is known for rather bland hotels. But this one is not bland: the 24-story building is allegedly designed as a clock. Each floor is to light up incrementally by the hour until the whole facade is illuminated at midnight. This, and construction, have neighbors on the edge.

"No doubt about it, it's going to be obnoxious," one local said at a Community Board 1 meeting on Wednesday night. "We don't need the extra illumination," said Chris Monnery, who's lived across the street on Maiden Lane for about a year. "At midnight you're going to have an entire wall of light." Another neighbor, Jeff Valenty, added the facade will be "literally 30 feet away from our bedrooms and living rooms."

The lights have been mentioned in the press, but when the issue came up, Alex Yi-Liang Lu, the developer's attorney, seemed completely blindsided. "If somebody could forward me a copy of the publication, perhaps I could talk to the interior designer," said Lu, apparently hearing of the controversy for the first time. "The interior designers were inspired by the history of the area," he said moments later during his presentation. Someone suggested the history of jewelry shops and the like might explain the clock-like lights idea. But the presentation didn't include photos of the building at night nor any explanation of the concept.

Since Maiden Lane is so narrow, neighbors worry that construction on the hotel will have a big impact on the intimate space. "The construction is a big deal," said Paul Greenberg, another across-the-street neighbor against the project. "We've been surrounded by construction for five years," he said. There've been a number of recent projects pretty close by, including One World Trade Center and the Fulton Center. A neighbor echoed, "It's like guns to the left of you, guns to the right."

Lu said the demolition of the existing buildings was planned for mid-April, but will likely get pushed back and construction is planned for fall. This prompted someone to point out that this is a right-of-way project that skipped the formal review process. The timing irked locals who were unsettled that the issue of lighting was only coming to Lu's attention now. "It concerns me that you don't know what the designs are, but you're breaking ground in April," said Carla Sinatra, who has lived across the street on Maiden for ten years.

The board had no substantial problem with the hotel other than the crazy clock set-up. Board chair Catherine McVay Hughes asked, in addition to changing the plans for the facade, that the developers try to reduce the impact of construction. She asked Lu to return in a month. Hopefully as time ticks on, the situation will look brighter—and the design won't.
· Work starts on Maiden Lane hotel [REW]
· All Gene Kaufman coverage [Curbed]
Rendering of Indigo Hotel courtesy Gene Kaufman / W & L Group Construction