A commercial building in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District is set to grow a bit. The Landmarks Preservation Commission recently approved work at 150 Fifth Avenue.
The 11-story building was only eight stories tall when it was built between 1888 and 1890. The design was by Edward Hale Kendall. In 1900, it was expanded horizontally and, in 1909, it was expanded vertically. It fell under the LPC’s jurisdiction in 1989, when the district was designated.
Now, owner L&L Holdings wants to further expand the structure and they hired preservation consultant Cas Stachelberg of Higgins Quasebarth & Partners and architect David Burns of Studios Architecture. Put simply, there would be horizontal expansion of floors 10 and 11, and infill of two lightwells. The expansion would be done with terra cotta piers.
There would also be window replacements, simplified framing for the main entrance, and a widened service egress. The building has actually been pretty well-maintained. So, little, if any, restoration work will be necessary.
Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron was okay with the rooftop addition, so long as the building reads as it does now from Fifth Avenue. Commissioner Michael Devonshire agreed with her.
Commissioner Diana Chapin said the rooftop addition was “too prominent” and Commissioner John Gustafsson wanted it set back more.
Commissioner Michael Goldblum said the proposal was okay as-is, and Commissioner Kim Vauss said it “works out very well.”
Commissioner Frederick Bland, for his part said it was okay as-is, but would also be open to some tweaking. He said he found the architecture “quite interesting” and the more he studied it, the more he liked it. LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan was inclined to approve the proposal for what she called a “very interesting building.”
For its part, Manhattan Community Board 5 did not approve the proposal.
The Historic Districts Council was none too fond of it, either. “HDC finds the proposed multi-story rooftop addition to be far too visible from Fifth Avenue. The photographs included in the application show neighboring distinct roofs–like mansards and steep pitches–that define the style and feel of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District,” testified HDC’s Patrick Waldo. “The proposed addition completely erodes this unique roofline. HDC suggests lowering and setting the rooftop addition farther back to eliminate its view from Fifth Avenue.” HDC was also unimpressed with the proposed work on the entrance.
Bill Irwin, a resident of 6 West 20th Street, complained of the loss of sunlight that would result from the infill and called the proposal for the top of the building “not an architecturally appropriate roof development.”
Of course, another building’s loss of light isn’t the LPC’s concern, and the commissioners approved the work on February 21. However, their approval comes with the proviso that the design team work with the LPC staff to further set back the expansion on the roof.
View the presentation slides here: