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Historic LICH Building On Its Way to Becoming Condos

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Given Cobble Hill resident's very negative reaction to Fortis Property Group's proposal to redevelop Long Island College Hospital, it makes sense the developers would kick off the mega project with something less controversial. Hence, BKSK Architects' proposal to Community Board 6's landmarks committee to restore the historic Polhemus Building and convert it into condos. The building was constructed in 1897 and was part of the hospital for more than a century before LICH closed it in 2008. Fortis filed plans to build out 17 units here in June, and last night it secured the blessing of Community Board 6.

"We're going to clean up the building," said BKSK partner Stephen Byrns, who presented a straightforward restoration plan. The biggest change for the facade will be the reconfiguration of the windows—essentially, the irregular window pattern will be "regulated," with windows enlarged and widened for apartment units. (The slit windows currently on the front facade, for example, will be replaced with larger windows.) The existing bulkhead of the building will be removed and replaced with a new bulkhead that's less visible. There are no plans to add a rooftop penthouse here, a notable difference from another restoration proposed for the LICH redevelopment. Back in May, Fortis said it planned to add a six-story addition to the former H-shaped hospital building located nearby on Henry Street.

The "sky walk," which connects Polhemus to another former hospital building, will be removed, as well as a building entrance on Henry Street. The main entrance, on Amity Street, will be restored, with a new wheelchair ramp and greenery.

The building's courtyard will also be changed up. The white brick that makes up some of the inner facade will be replaced with brick that matches the rest of the facade. BKSK also proposed to add balconies for the apartments that looked out into the building well. The courtyards, which will be about 6 feet across and 10 feet wide, will have a design that resembles the neighborhood fire escapes.

There were concerns from the committee mostly over the balconies—the visibility and the potential that condo residents will keep personal belongings on them. Some committee members also wanted to keep the white brick facade within the courtyard. "Right now, it looks like the projects," a committee member said of the regulated brick facade, with another saying that it looked "too monochromatic." Still, the project was deemed a "high quality" and "first rate" restoration. One committee member was particularly excited that the sky walk would disappear with the reno.

In the end, the committee approved the restoration unanimously, but recommended the elimination of the balconies. This is only a very small step in a very long process of redevelopment coming for the former LICH property. If Fortis moves ahead with its rezoning proposal, it must undergo a ULURP process to ultimately build out 820 units over 1 million square feet, and Cobble Hill residents are ready to put up a fight.
· Finally, a Look at LICH's Hated Residential Conversion [Curbed]
· Polhemus Building coverage [Curbed]
· LICH Coverage [Curbed]