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Pearl Paint's residential conversion gets snarled at Landmarks

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The buildings fall within the Tribeca East Historic Preservation District

Plans to renovate the smaller white and red building at center and its brick neighbor appeared in front of the LPC.
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Pearl Paint, a longtime Canal Street institution, closed more than two years ago, and it didn’t take long for the iconic strip of buildings to find new ownership. Vornado Realty Trust picked up the larger of the two properties—304-306 Canal Street—which is already under redevelopment. The fate of 308-310 Canal Street, however, is a little more complicated.

Unlike their less historic neighbors, 308 and 310, owned by Trans World Properties, fall within the Tribeca East Historic Preservation District, which means their redevelopment falls under the jurisdiction of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The agency held a public hearing last week to go over the developer’s plans for converting the one-time art supply store into a mixed-use space, but YIMBY reports no approval was ultimately granted.

YIMBY outlines the history: both 308 and 310 are four-story, through-block buildings; 308 Canal, built between 1864 and 1865, is Italianate in style, while the neo-Grec 310 Canal came a few years later in 1879. Both buildings also have addresses on Lispenard Street—55 and 53, respectively.

The proposed redevelopment plan, designed by Paul A. Castrucci Architect, would add two stories on top of both buildings, allowing for retail on the first floor, topped by eight residential units: two apartments per floor on the second, third, and fourth floors, and then a duplex spanning the fifth and sixth. YIMBY goes on:

The façades of both buildings would be cleaned up, as would the cast iron and cornices. The storefronts would be set back 18 inches, to better reveal the cast iron columns. 308, famously white with red accents, would be treated in the same brick color as 310, with the storefront, fire escapes, and cornice in blue. The rooftop additions would be done in zinc.

That part didn’t bother the commissioners. If anything, they “applauded the restoration.”

The two-story expansion, though, was another story, with one commissioner calling the addition “overwhelming.” While not everyone was willing to write off a two-story addition as outside the realm of possibility, YIMBY suggests that “many believed a single-story addition would be more appropriate.”

Barbara Zay, of the Historic Districts Council, said she thought a more “sensitive approach” was possible. “Our committee felt that at the very least they should include more substantial bulkheads and that it would be best to avoid floor-to-ceiling glass. While we could imagine a one-story rooftop addition being acceptable here, the proposed addition is way too big for this building, making the entire facade appear quite top-heavy in the renderings,” she testified at the meeting. “A better choice of materials would also go a long way toward making the addition more acceptable.”

The next step is for the applicant to re-work the plan and present again, taking the LPC’s feedback into account. YIMBY has the full presentation slides here.