A building in Brooklyn Heights that was long ago robbed of some of its charm will be getting a touch-up. On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the renovation of 162 Montague Street.
The building is on the south side of the street, just west of Clinton Street. The commission doesn’t have a date of construction listed, but the rowhouse was heavily modified in 1933, including the removal of the cornice and other decorative elements including sills and a small stoop. The building fell under the protection of the LPC in 1965, with the designation of the Brooklyn Heights Historic District.
Currently, the Chinese restaurant Lichee Nut occupies the cellar and the Nanatori sushi restaurant occupies the first floor. They are followed by office space on the second floor and one apartment each on the third and fourth floors. Now, the owner wants to spruce it up and has hired Gowanus-based architect Benjamin Ellis to work on the project.
The proposal calls for new signage for the restaurants (including one backlit sign and a menu board), re-introduction of the stoop, and a new main entrance. There will also be new windows and lintels. A new cornice will be constructed two feet lower than the current parapet. That will allow for greater exposure at the fourth floor windows. The proposal also calls for adding a third window to the two already on the fourth floor, which are in a mansard roof. Finally, a new stair bulkhead would be constructed for roof access and some of the ductwork will be shifted in the rear.
Commissioner Michael Devonshire was opposed to the proposed fiberglass cornice, believing that people would be able to notice that instead of being one piece, it would actually be several. He also didn’t like the idea that the design for the new sills was governed by products produced by Marvin Windows.
Commissioner Kim Vauss liked the design for the new cornice and said she was okay with the new main entrance door. She wasn’t sure about the new windows and felt the proposed signage was excessive.
Though LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan thought the overall proposal was “positive,” she also questioned the proposed signage. Ellis responded, saying that it wouldn’t stand out given the existing commercial nature of Montague Street. Srinivasan added she liked the dormer windows at the fourth floor, but was mildly concerned about the visibility of the rooftop construction.
Commissioner Michael Goldblum called the proposal a “haphazard reinterpretation” of the building’s previous form. Commissioner Jeanne Lutfy said Montague Street has been “slow to evolve” and said she’s “glad we’re doing something.”
Srinivasan said Brooklyn Community Board 2 approved of the proposal, but only if the cornice was made of tin or wood. She said the Brooklyn Heights Association sent in a letter expressing displeasure with the proposal for the first and second floors, which it said did not actually reflect historic condition.
In the end, the commissioners approved the proposal, with provisions. The applicant will work with LPC staff to refine the proposed signage (particularly the backlit one) and the design of the window surrounds, and to make sure the new cornice is constructed of sheet metal or tin.