Plans to replace five low-rise buildings on Canal Street with a nine-story residential building were eviscerated by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday. It was a repeat of the story that unfurled just a few weeks ago, when the local community board denounced this proposal as well.
This site has a bit of a complicated history, but before we get into that let’s quickly take a look at what was presented before the LPC on Tuesday. Paul Castrucci Architects presented plans to demolish the existing structures on the site and replace them with a nine-story, brick-clad building with 18 apartments, and retail at the base.
Shortly after the presentation wrapped, a representative for Community Board 1 repeated many of the criticisms voiced at the meeting last month.
“We feel that this building does a great disservice to Canal Street, and simply does not work in this location,” the representative for the board said. “We wish we liked the proposal as much as we liked the presentation.”
That turned out to be just the starting point for the mountain of criticism that followed afterward. The design was universally denounced by all the public speakers, including representatives from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office, and the Historic Districts Council. The most vocal opposition however was from residents of 45 Lispenard Street (nearly a dozen in attendance), the co-op building that sits right behind this proposed site.
“We have lots of immediate concerns like the noise, the vibrations, and the air,” James Sanders, a resident, said. “But we also feel this is wildly out of scale and out of character with the neighborhood.”
The project’s fortunes only got worse as the commissioners began debating the application. Most were in agreement that the existing buildings at the site had been changed beyond repair and were ready to be demolished. But they weren’t willing to let it be demolished for Paul Castrucci Architects’s plan.
“There is a real problem with the monolithic aspect of this application, and it takes away from the granular nature of Canal Street,” Meenakshi Srinivasan, the chair of the LPC, said of 312-322 Canal Street. “This site is a real opportunity for something that is new and contemporary, and that adds to Canal Street. This proposal is completely inappropriate.”
In the end the Commission did not reject the proposal, but decided simply not to take any action on the matter on Tuesday, and allow the architect to come up with something entirely different.
It’s a tactic the LPC has adopted on this particular site before as well. When the same architecture firm came before the Commission in 2011, it was to approve changes that had been made to the existing buildings at the site without the Commission’s approval. The Commission sent back the architects to the drawing board at that time as well. The original five federal houses that were built at this site went up in 1825, and several changes have been made to the structures since, including adding and subtracting stories.
This is something the architecture firm was trying to point to while pushing forward their proposal on Tuesday. The Commissioners, and local residents weren’t buying it at all. We’ll have to wait and see what they come up with for the next go around at LPC.