Posts tagged with "Preservation":

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NYU Destroys Again

Curbed directed us to a travesty in the Village today, albeit an unsurprising one. It appears NYU, in constructing a new building for the law school, damaged the shell of the Provincetown Playhouse, which it had promised to preserve. We say this is unsurprising because, as we recall and Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation again confirmed, this is precisely what preservationists feared would happen. You see, a lot of people assume, that like the rest of Greenwich Village, that NYU's Washington Square Park campus is also landmarked, and therefore protected from overdevelopment, especially from the at-times over-zealous educator. Trying to improve its image and community relations, however, the school sometimes agrees to preserve buildings it technically would have to, though with little oversite. In the case of the Provincetown theater, which we covered last June, NYU declined to save the entire building on MacDougal Street—it's being replaced by Morris Adjmi—but they would retain the shell of the Provincetown Playhouse, the launchpad for Eugene O'Neill and Off Broadway theater. Berman and other preservationists were suspicious of the deal, however, because a similar one had been cut at the start of the decade, when NYU promised to save the facade of Edgar Allan Poe's home on nearby West Third Street as part of another law school building, Furman Hall. After a long court battle to save the building, with such bigs as E.L. Doctorow and Lou Reed weighing in, NYU was told it could demolish the "non-contributing" building, but it agreed to incorporate pieces of the original into the new building. But just as happened earlier this month at the Provincetown, the Poe house was damaged during construction, and had to be replicated from scratch. Berman, in an email, called it "classic NYU:"
This is exactly what happened with the Poe House, and it's classic NYU. I have some pictures from the early stages of their doing this (see attached—I don't know if they've done more since then). There is no recourse with LPC because the building is not landmarked (the city refused to). Our hope is that this will make city and local elected officials take a closer look at NYU and their lack of honesty and willingness to abide by their own commitments, and in the future will not support such plans as happened in this case.
NYU told The Villager the damaged wall "was found to be made partly of rubble and unstable." The school says it has put construction on the south side of the building on hold—it will continue on the north side—while a report is prepared. Among other unsurprising surprises is that NYU did not know about the damage until last week, weeks after the damage was done, as though preserving that wall were somehow not one of the prime directives for the contractors on the site. Apparently, NYU's priorities remain their own and no one else's.
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Wright Room Service

A non-profit group in Mason City, Iowa is restoring the last remaining Frank Lloyd Wright designed hotel, according to the AP. Completed in 1910, the Park Inn Hotel complex also includes a bank branch and a small office building. It had previously been used as a hotel, apartments, and a strip club.

The building was owned by the city, which after failing to sell the structure on eBay (they were asking $10 million for the dilapidated structure), turned it over to the Wright on the Park, Inc., which pledged to restore it using public and private funds. They recently received an $8.2 million grant from the state of Iowa toward the project and are looking to raise an additional $2 million.

When the renovation is complete, the hotel will include 20 suites. Though the group can claim that the Historic Park Inn is the only extant hotel designed by Wright, the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, originally designed as an office building and residence, has been converted into a hotel.

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Put Up A Parking Lot

Despite interest from developers and pleas from activists in St. Louis, yesterday the Missouri Circuit Court ruled that the demolition of the mid-century modern San Luis Apartments can proceed. An appeal brought to the court by The Friends of the San Luis last week attempted to prevent the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which owns the building, from the further demolition of the structure. The Archdiocese wants to build a surface parking lot on the site, creating a large gap in the urban fabric of Lindell Boulevard. The Friends group is organizing a rally to be held at the site tonight to show its continued intent to preserve this “high-merit” building and to protest the court’s decision. Further appeals to halt demolition may also be brought by the group.
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Last Gasp for Gropius?

The demolition of the Michael Reese hospital campus in Chicago, partially designed by Walter Gropius, has been put on hold until after October 2, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will announce the host city for the 2016 Games. Preservation groups are pushing for adaptive reuse of some of the buildings, but the city is determined to clear the site for either an Olympic Village or for private development. The delay, then, probably does not signal a victory for preservationists. It is more likely a calculated move on the part of the city and Chicago 2016 to quiet opposition until after the IOC makes its decision. (Community Media Workshop via Blair Kamin.)

Prospecting for Landmarks

Last week, Prospect Height's became the city's newest landmark district. At 850-odd buildings, it is the largest district to be created since the Upper West Side Historic District was created in 1990. Clearly, a lot of work went into the three-year effort championed by locals and the Municipal Art Society and driven largely by the nearby Atlantic Yards project and the undue development it spurred on one of Brooklyn's last unprotected brownstone neighborhoods. To highlight just how hard it is, but also what a triumph, MAS put together this thoughtful little video. Hopefully it will inspire you to do something civic minded as well on this patriotic weekend or beyond.

The Past Imperfect

For the 53rd Venice Art Biennial, Jorge Otero-Pailos, a professor of preservation at Columbia, made a cast of the pollution on a wall of the Doge’s Palace on the Palazzo San Marco. Trained as a conservationist, he painted liquid latex directly onto the wall and then carefully removed the cast in one sheet. The result, The Ethics of Dust, Doge’s Palace, Venice, 2009, seen in this video, is a luminous scrim that preserves the residue accrued overtime. Such pollution is typically seen negatively, but Otero-Pailos sees it as a record of human activity and questions the impulse to erase these traces of the past.
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You Windermere Some, You Lose Some

The Observer is reporting that Windermere, an individual landmark dating from the late 19th Century located on West 57th Street, was recently purchased for $13 million, or an astounding $181-per-square-foot. The sumptuous red brick apartment building had fallen into disrepair some years ago after its Japanese owner apparently lost interest in it, leading to a lawsuit we covered last year. Last Thursday, the commission announced [PDF] a landmark victory in its civil suit, which netted a record $1.1 million payment to the city, $2.6 million for seven displaced tenants of the former SRO, and an agreement from the new owner of the building to restore it to its former glory. (The suits had to be settled before the sale could go through.) So it looks like a win-win for everyone: An affordable gem for some enterprising developers, a windfall for the city, and a victory, most importantly, for those poor tenants.
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Healthy Development

We've been following the proposed hospital cum condos plan for St. Vincent's rather closely as its percolated through the LPC the past year-and-a-half, but due to conflicting plans and just a smidge of St. Vincent's fatigue, we couldn't make it to yesterday's latest hearing on the Rudin condo proposal. As we understand it, though, it was no different than the proposal unveiled 51 weeks prior. What was on view, however, were some fancy new renderings of those same old buildings, which you can find here. According to the Times, the proceedings were raucous as usual, with some 80 opponents speaking out against the project, a 233-foot condo tower designed by FXFowle along with a handful of condo conversions made out of historic hospital building. These apartments, developed by Rudin Management, are meant to help finance the recently approved 286-foot hospital tower designed by Pei Cobb Freed that will rise across Seventh Avenue on the site of Albert Ledner's former National Maritime Union Headquarters. "Essentially, they felt the building had to come down," LPC spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon told us today in a phone interview. Did they happen to say how big is too big? "They didn't specify," de Bourbon replied. "They just said it was too bulky and too tall." Dan Kaplan, the FXFowle partner in charge of the project, assured us the firm would be back. "I was encouraged by the Commisisoners' constructive comments on the scheme presented," he wrote in an email. As for these renderings, it's always impossible to tell what a building will really look like once it's built, but these don't seem so bad, do they? Then again, the design team has often been criticized by the commission for manipulating their media to only produce the desired affect. But hey, who can blame 'em?
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iToldya So

So it turns out they've finally approved designs for the Apple Store in Georgetown. As we speculated, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson came up with a perfectly appropriate glassy-historicist design, as they already have in places like Soho and Boston. The thing is, after a year-and-a-half of deliberating over designs for the project, and rejecting four previous proposals, what the Old Georgetown Board approved looks suspiciously like what was presented 18 months ago. It's basically the same as the previous proposal from February, except that columns were added to the entryway to make it not quite so glassy. And we thought New York was bad. (h/t ArchNewsNow)
What a difference a month makes. (Washington Post)
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My Cousin St. Vinny

The Observer points us to a lawsuit filed today in State Supreme Court aimed at stopping the demolition of Albert C. Ledner's National Maritime Union HQ in Greenwhich Village, now known as the O'Toole Building. If you read the paper with any regularity, you should know full well the story of St. Vincent's Hospital's attempts to replace the one-of-a-kind "overbite building" with a 300-foot tall Pei Cobb Freed-designed hospital tower. Well, the lawsuit may be just in time, as the Landmarks Preservation Commission is due to vote today on whether or not it approves the outsized plans for the new hospital building. As we most recently reported, a majority of commissioners are leaning towards approval, meaning the suit may be the last chance to save Ledner's building. The petition, which can be found here, was filed by the Protect the Village Historic District and a coalition of preservation groups and neighbors. It effectively calls into question the commission's torturous 6-4 October vote, which condemned the building in question, on the grounds that the hospital, and its development partner Rudin, were not wholly forthcoming. The petitioners claim the developers mis-attributed their "constitutional hardship"--St. Vincent's argues that it cannot carry out its charitable duties in its current facilities and that it cannot find a suitable replacement site beyond the O'Toole building--and that this hardship was falsely accepted by the commission. Perhaps more importantly, they challenge the fact that the property was knowingly purchased as a landmark by St. Vincent's:
In addition, petitioners contend that because St. Vincent’s acquired O’Toole Building AFTER the restrictions imposed by the Landmarks Law were already in place, the Hospital could not have had “reasonable investment-backed expectations” of the sort that would justify a constitutional exception to the otherwise proper and lawful restrictions on an owner’s use of its property that are codified in the Landmarks Law.
This has been a major issue for preservationist throughout the two-year fight because they fear it sets a dangerous precedent wherein any charity could purchase a landmark, claim it does not suit its needs, and then demolish it. The hope is that with the subpeona power of the courts, the petitioners can bring to light many of the concerns that were never fully aired in public at the commission, such as the financial position of the hospital and any closed-door discussions and analysis performed by the developers with regards to alternative site. Still, one prominent land-use attorney who often goes before the commission doubted the suit's success. The attorney, declined to comment because, on the one hand, a number of associates lived in the neighborhood and were upset by the proposal, while on the other, the firm had and might yet deal with similar claims. Generally speaking, however, the attorney said the commission is always very cautious on such matters. "The hardship is rigorous, it's difficult" the attorney said. "It's difficult to meet the standard, and the commission is sure to dot all its 'i's. Usually, it's difficult to overturn these administrative decisions." Indeed, at the October vote, every single commissioner read from prepared remarks, something almost never seen, especially from the entire commission. An LPC representative even explained that prepared statements were used to be sure everything was on record and legitimate. The rep then added, "You know, in case there's a law suit." Well, the commission's gotten it's wish, so to speak. (The city has declined to comment until it receives the petition, which a spokesperson said it had not.) Whether this turns into another Atlantic Yards, or even another Grand Central, which is what got us here in the first place, remains to be seen. Then again, if they vote down the hospital tomorrow, maybe it won't even matter. But if not, we can only hope Joe Pesci is on the petitioner's side, 'cause he sure puts up a good fight.
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LIEBing for New Shores

The Lieb House, Robert Venturi’s second commission and once in danger of demolition, will soon be en route to its new location, but by sea, not by land. After a bit of resistance from Glen Cove town council, the house has been cleared to travel by barge to its new site in the Long Island town. The architect Frederic Schwartz and Jim Venturi, Robert’s son, led the fight to save the storied home. The beach house, completed in 1967 in Barnegat Light, New Jersey, was to be razed and replaced by its new owner. Schwartz and the Venturis negotiated a 10-day grace period to allow them to find a new location for the house before it was to be destroyed. They found a fitting new site for it alongside another Venturi-designed home on the Glen Cove property of Debbie Sarnoff and Robert Gotkin. The two-story, 2,000-square-foot Lieb House will now act as a guesthouse to the main residence. Featuring a large, segmented circular window and curiously large number “9” signage, the Lieb House became an immediate postmodern success. The not quite box-shaped home set the foundation for the then-burgeoning Venturi style. (Video courtesy The Press of Atlantic City). The Storefront for Art and Architecture is hosting a weeklong exhibition, including a pier party to watch it sail by, celebrating the house and its unusual move. Opening on March 11, the exhibition will feature a map highlighting the house’s current location, final destination, and the route it will take between the two. Original drawings and photographs of the house will also be on display. The following day, March 12, Storefront will present a conversation about the house and its fate with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. The couple had deplored the house’s once seemingly inescapable demise:

We think it is architecturally tragic: it is a very significant house. We enjoyed making it a Modernist box with views toward the sea via windows and a roof terrace, and with a big sign: "9". We loved that by accident the round window works as a halo to the neighbor's religious statue, and we loved working with wonderful, understanding clients.

Early on the morning after the discussion, the public is invited to Pier 17 between 7 am and 9 am, to watch the house cruise down the river toward its future habitat. Thirteen cameras, including a heli-cam, will be filming the move as part of a documentary on the house being produced by Jim Venturi.
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Kenny's Paradise

Could it be possible that Mr. San-Francisco-architecture Kenny Caldwell is tiring of the city? He is looking into the purchase of a spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright home in Los Banos, California, an “undiscovered” Central Valley town he calls “paradise.” The house was apparently commissioned in 1954, but not completed until 1961 (Wright died in 1959). It sits in the center of 76 “rich fertile acres” of walnuts and maybe beans (or is that cotton?) with 5 bedrooms, formalized ornamental screens, a koi pond, aviary, and tractor bay. This $2,700,000 “Usonian” dream may well be Kenny’s hideaway or castaway, but I bet his friends are already making plans to visit. That is, if they haven’t had their eye on a little Usonian Automatic of their own!