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Lower East Side’s fire-ravaged synagogue could be incorporated into residential development

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The developers now want to incorporate the remnants of the synagogue into a two-tower development

Via Howard Zimmerman Architects/Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The development team behind the fire-ravaged Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue on the Lower East Side, is hoping to demolish some more parts of the destroyed synagogue, and integrate it into a residential development. The development team will present these plans to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission at a public hearing on Tuesday.

Previously, the LPC had already given permission for parts of the structure to be removed, and now the development team says more portions of the remaining structure are unsafe and unstable, and need to be removed before the rest of the redevelopment project moves forward.

In January this year, the development team—which is comprised of the synagogue, the Gotham Organization, and the Chinese American Planning Council—unveiled plans for a two-tower residential project that would rise around the remains of the synagogue. In addition to the 488 apartments that are part of the development, the Chinese American Planning Council will also run its permanent headquarters from the development, and the synagogue will have a new space within the development.

The residential towers will stand 10 stories and 30 stories tall respectively. The former will have 88 affordable apartments for seniors, whereas the latter will have 400 apartments, of which 100 will be affordable units.

Now the developers, with Dattner Architects on board to design, are hoping to demolish additional parts of the synagogue and incorporate it into one of the residential buildings. Some of the examples they’re looking at are the James Polshek-designed entrance pavilion for the McKim, Mead, and White-designed Brooklyn Museum; and the Kolumba Museum in Cologne, Germany, where architect Peter Zumthor incorporated elements of the medieval Columba church into the museum building.

Similarly at Beth Hamerdash, Dattner wants to create a street-facing, glass-enclosed vestibule, which will protect the remnants of the structure from the elements, create a new entrance space for congregants, and also be a space to display surviving artifacts from the synagogue. Dattner is also proposing that the existing perimeter walls of the synagogue be used as garden walls for a new outdoor space for the synagogue, according to presentation materials submitted to the LPC. One of the residential buildings would then cantilever over the remains of the synagogue, without touching them.

Curbed will report from the LPC tomorrow and update this post with the Commission’s decision.