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Merchant’s House-adjacent hotel still a thorn in preservationists’ side

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Preservationists continue to fight the building, saying it could harm the 186-year-old historic house

Rendering via SRA Architecture and Engineering

Six years after a developer first proposed building a hotel next to the Merchant’s House Museum, the plans are back in play. According to EV Grieve and Bowery Boogie, preservationists have once again sounded the alarm over the planned eight-story hotel, as the City Planning Commission will soon decide whether or not to award the developer a spot rezoning it needs to begin construction.

Back in 2014, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the design (by SRA Architecture and Engineering) for a 100-foot-tall brick building at 27 East Fourth Street, which would replace a one-story garage that’s used to house food carts. Though the design got the green light, LPC commissioners conceded that it was, shall we say, underwhelming, with one calling it “drab on so many levels.”

But the hotel proposal was also controversial because of its location next door to the 186-year-old Merchant’s House Museum, which preservationists fear will be harmed by construction. During multiple hearings, the developers promised that they would take extensive measures to ensure that the centuries-old structure, which is a city landmark, would not be harmed.

Still, preservation-minded groups have not backed down in their concern over the museum building. Advocates at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation have warned that “the fragile site could potentially suffer irreversible damage if the project moves forward,” according to Bowery Boogie.

Margaret Halsey Gardiner, the executive director of the Merchant’s House Museum, also issued her own “call-to-arms” on the museum’s website:

The proposed hotel, at 100 feet tall, is in violation of the City’s Zoning Resolution. The developer’s application for a zoning text amendment—“spot zoning”—in effect would rewrite the law for a series of waivers that benefit the developer alone.

At eight stories, the proposed hotel towers over the 4 ½ story Merchant’s House (completely blocking sunlight to the rear garden) and is grossly incompatible with the surrounding buildings in the Noho Historic District.

If the Planning Commission approves the application, the developer would be able to proceed – and the museum’s fragile, 186-year-old building would suffer catastrophic structural damage and likely collapse during construction.

Work will not begin on the site until the City Planning Commission gives the developers the final green light—but before that happens, Community Board 2 will hold a public hearing on the proposed construction tomorrow night.