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Tribeca community board vetoes reno plan for Canal Street low-rises

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How do you solve a problem like 312-322 Canal Street?

Paul Castrucci Architect

The folks at Paul Castrucci Architect came before Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee last week with a shiny new residential proposal 312-322 Canal Street, currently the site of an empty brick low-rise. It was, the Tribeca Trib reports, a “painfully tough sell.”

The firm argued the proposed digs—a nine-story red-brick residential building with 18 apartments, nine of them duplexes—would be a “fitting neighbor in the Tribeca East Historic district.” The design would be inspired by other buildings in the area, Andrew Vann, of Castrucci, assured the committee, and while it is not a short building, the height would hardly be unprecedented for the district.

The committee, however, wasn’t buying it. In addition to the height (“a punch in the stomach”), committee members balked at the general placelessness of the design—it reminded one of “a Hilton Garden”—and also the “horrible” view of the building from Mercer Street.

That last was a particular point of contention. Renderings show a monolithic stair and elevator tower visible at one end of the building, obstructing (or enhancing?) the view from Mercer. According to Vann, the tower is an “opportunity to do something emphatic yet sensitive to the neighborhood.” According to the committee, the windowless column—meant to “recall the windowless shaftways of industrial loft buildings”—is a catastrophe. “Just to have this blank stair tower on that great view,” said committee chair Bruce Ehrmann, “is astonishingly bad.”

Unanimously, the committee voted against the design.

This isn’t Paul Castrucci Architect’s first time at this particular rodeo. Back in 2011, the firm was tasked with figuring out a plan for space, which housed storefronts until, without proper permits, it was turned into a “two story row of bricks.” Working on a tight budget, they proposed a series of storefronts with a suburban strip mall vibe. But no one liked that plan, either.

Meanwhile, it took three tries to figure out an acceptable residential plan for the former Pearl Paint building down the street at 308-310 Canal Street, which finally cleared Landmarks last month.

The proposal for 312-322 Canal is set to go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which is advised by the committee, sometime next month.