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Preservationists once again pitch historic district near Union Square

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As construction begins for a 21-story tech hub, preservationists resurface calls for the city to protect several historic buildings in the area

The Renwick at 808 Broadway, one of the buildings in the area south of Union Square that advocates are trying to preserve.
Nicholas Strini, PropertyShark

As construction for the Union Square tech hub begins, Greenwich Village preservationists have resurrected their call for the city to designate a new historic district in the area, AM New York first reported.

Last October, following a contested upzoning of a lot on 14th Street to build the 21-story training center, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to consider designating a new historic district to protect 193 buildings in the area.

Over the summer, the LPC moved to designate seven of those buildings, but rejected the call for a full historic district. At the time, the LPC said that the area mostly contains buildings erected between the 1830s and 1930s, as well as new and altered ones, and that because of their variety in styles, types, and dates, “[the area] lacks the consistent architectural quality, cohesiveness, and sense of place necessary to merit historic district designation.”

But GVSHP is persistent, and this week resurrected its call for a proper district protecting more buildings in the area. In a letter sent to LPC this week, the group made the case for protecting 10 buildings, including 10 East 14th Street, a cast-iron structure that once housed the NYC Woman Suffrage League headquarters; 72 Fifth Avenue, a masonry structure that was the headquarters of Appleton & Company; and 17 East 13th Street, the brick Erskine Press building. The selection of buildings also includes structures associated with 19th-century architect James Renwick Jr.

“[These buildings] speak to the incredibly rich and important social and architectural history of the area, and to New York’s development as the capital of commerce and culture in the late 19th and 20th centuries,” the letter from GVSHP reads.

“With increased pressure on the area from the beginning of construction on the 14th Street Tech Hub, the recent loss of Renwick’s St. Denis Hotel (1855), and the completion of the woefully out of scale tech office tower at 808 Broadway, the time for the city to act is now,” Andrew Berman, executive director of GVSHP, told Curbed in a statement.

The group is also pushing for city lawmakers to implement protections that would regulate commercial development south of 14th Street through a “protective zoning measure,” which was promised at the time of the tech hub rezoning over a year ago.

City Council member Carlina Rivera, who represents the area, negotiated those commitments from the de Blasio administration, but advocates have said those promises hadn’t materialized.

“Councilwoman Rivera continues to work with the community to ensure the history of the Village is preserved and she is meeting regularly with LPC to discuss future protections for her entire district that should be considered,” Jeremy Unger, a spokesperson for Rivera, said in a statement.