Six-story, four-unit 54 MacDougal Street, located in western SoHo, awaits its brick-and-steel façade designed by Building Studio Architects. Ajax Partners and Valyrian Capital are jointly developing the project, with AllertonFox Construction acting as general contractor. Glickman Engineering Associates, PLLC is providing engineering services.
The first building permit, filed in July 2013, indicates a total of five floors. The penthouse mezzanine, which does not qualify as a full floor in terms of permits, increases the practical count to six stories. The total construction floor area spans 11,056 square feet. The 8,457 residential square feet register a floor-to-area ratio of 3.38, and produce an average of 2,114 square feet for each of the four units, although their actual sizes vary significantly.
According to the architect website, the ground floor unit includes a recreation space in the cellar, which opens onto a sunken rear yard. Each of the typical floors contains a two-bedroom apartment. The four-bedroom penthouse triplex centers upon a double-height living room area, which opens upon relatively unobstructed westbound vistas thanks to the building’s position at the end of King Street. The mezzanine opens onto a terrace situated upon the rear setback.
The 2,500-square-foot, mid-block lot is 25 feet wide and 100 feet long. The building footprint measures 25 by 71 feet, with a sunken yard in the rear. Permits show that the structure rises 57 feet to the main roof, which is well below the 75-foot maximum permitted by zoning at the time of filing. The set-back bulkhead, which adds about ten more feet to the total height, would not be visible from the street.
The project sits at the western edge of the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District, which was designated in December 2016. The project generated a preservation debate even though it was designed well before stringent guidelines imposed by the historic district went into effect.
The lot was previously occupied by the two-story Ezra Weeks-Daniel Ludlow House, built in 1820 upon a lot that Erza Weeks, one of the city’s preeminent developers, bought from Aaron Burr, the third Vice President of the United States, in 1814. A full third story replaced the sloping roof and third level dormers in 1874. The house was featured in the 1997 movie “Men in Black.”
Ninety percent of the neighborhood’s buildings were erected before 1930, and most buildings at the intersection of MacDougal and King Streets have seen minimal change since then.
The Weeks-Ludlow House was among the oldest buildings in the neighborhood when it was sold to Ajax Partners in 2012 for $4.3 million. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation petitioned the Landmarks Preservation Commission for a landmark designation days after demolition permits were filed in February 2013.
Preservation efforts were insufficient to save the building, which was torn down in the summer of 2013. The site sat largely untouched until excavation commenced in 2015. The steel structure passed the halfway point in mid-2016. The ceremonial flag that marks the official topping-out was hoisted at the parapet in January of this year.
The landmarking petition cautioned that “the replacement could also be jarringly out-of-character with the historic neighborhood.” Whether the prediction came to fruition is debatable. The new building’s streamlined design contrasts with its ornate pre-war neighbors. On the other hand, the project scale matches its neighbors, and the new cornice would fill the parapet gap once left by its predecessor. The warm brick palette matches adjacent façades better than the red paint on the 1820 structure. The architects describe the brick details, such as dogtooth patterns, corbels, reveals, rustications, radiused corners and different brick bonds, as “traditional techniques applied in a contemporary way” that “rely on shadow and texture to give the façade depth and detail.”
The façade makes extensive use of floor-to-ceiling glass curtain walls, which, according to the architects, recall “industrial windows and artists’ studio windows that abound in the neighborhood,” likely in reference to nearby Hudson Square. Black steel accents at window lintels and balconies pay homage to nearby fire escapes and echo the iron façades of the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District to the east. Rather than replicating the past, the new building distills traditional forms through a modern paradigm.