Just over a month ago, celebrated British architect David Chipperfield presented plans to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to replace a garage in the Greenwich Village Historic District with a seven-story apartment building. Those plans were resoundingly denounced by local residents in more than two hours of testimony, and the LPC ultimately decided to table a vote on the project, saying it needed time to go over the concerns.
The building came up for a vote again at today’s LPC meeting, but not much had changed. Chipperfield essentially presented the same plans, arguing again that he felt that his design was appropriate and in character with the street, especially considering the varied height of the buildings on that particular block. He continued to defend his design despite the previous opposition to it. But in debating the project, it quickly became clear that the LPC’s commissioners were having none of it, and they’ve now sent the project back to the drawing board.
Though some agreed on demolishing the existing garage at 11-19 Jane Street, they weren’t as excited about the building that would rise in its place. One of the commissioners pointed to the fact that most of the other buildings on the street had brick facades, and Chipperfield’s use of stone was a mistake.
"It makes the building seem imperious and makes it overdressed for the street," Michael Goldblum, the above-mentioned commissioner, said. He pointed to the fact the project’s primary audience would be wealthy residents, and the design was trying to needlessly make it stand out in the neighborhood.
LPC chair Meenakshi Srinivasan didn’t have as much of a problem with the materials used for the building, saying the commission had approved similar projects in other historic districts. She did, however, have a problem with the height of the building, in particular the penthouses at the top. She felt the setback didn’t necessarily make them stick out any less, and added that it was a problem that could be easily fixed.
Overall it seemed the commissioners were in agreement that this particular design was not suitable for this street. A couple of commissioners went further and said it would be wrong to demolish the garages. "I find the demolition extremely troubling especially considering the fact that the way we think about historic preservation has evolved," Commissioner Michael Devonshire said. "It would destroy the fabric of Greenwich Village. The new building is very imposing, and the cast stone is demeaning to other materials on the street."
Once again, the LPC decided not to act on the project, and have given Chipperfield time to revise his designs as per their recommendations.