The City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), which often ignores or contradicts the advisory opinions of local community boards, appears to agree with Community Board 1 (CB1) on the question of a new building proposed for Canal Street, between Church Street and Broadway. That’s where developer Trans World Equities wants to construct a nine-story residential tower designed by architect Paul A. Castrucci.
Although the mass of the planned building (102 wide and 97 feet tall) complies existing zoning limits, such a plan must nonetheless be approved by the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), because it falls within one of Tribeca’s four Historic Districts, and would entail demolishing five existing structures that date from the early 1800s.
In May, CB1 enacted a resolution with unusually strong wording, which compared the proposed design to a Hilton Garden Inn and said, “one wishes more could be said in favor of this proposal,” adding that, “the committee is at a loss here.” The resolution concluded with an unequivocal call: “CB1 urges that the Landmarks Preservation Commission reject this application.”
CB1’s Landmarks Committee had earlier called the proposal, “unacceptable on almost every level,” describing it as a, “long blockhouse,” and comparing it to a, “mini-33 Thomas Street,” in a reference to the widely reviled ATT Long Lines Building at Thomas and Church Streets, the early 1970s construction of which first catalyzed the movement to preserve Tribeca’s architectural history.
On June 6, the LPC took up the matter. In an remarkable departure from custom, the LPC appeared to agree with the developer that the structures that would need to be demolished in order to make way for the project — a series of foundations and interior walls, which are all that remain of five row houses built in 1826 — were dispensable. What the LPC panelists could not abide, however, was the proposed design.
LPC chair Meenakshi Srinivasan called it, “completely inappropriate,” and, “a big, monolithic, uninteresting tower… [with] no personality whatsoever.” Other commissioners decried the design’s lack of context with the surrounding streetscape, with one describing the plan as “dog-won’t-hunt” and “no-go.”
Interestingly, the LPC did not vote to block the project. Rather, the commissioners chose to take no action on the proposal one way or the other, leaving it in limbo. Among real estate developers, this is widely understood to be a signal that they should completely revise their design, and bring it back before the LPC at a later date.