The two-story building is located between Bainbridge and Decatur streets, across from the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church. It was completed around 1871 as one in a row of five frame houses and has been altered extensively over the years. Among those alterations were the removal of a porch sometime before the 1980s, the recladding of the façade in brick, and the building up of the areaway. It fell under the LPC’s jurisdiction in 2013, with the designation of the Bedford Stuyvesant/Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District. It is, however, not one of the structures for which the district is primarily known.
Now, the plan is to make significant changes to the building. Bruno Achille of the Bensonhurst-based general contracting firm Achille & Son is listed as the owner. Midtown Manhattan-based GMH Architecture is responsible for the design work.
The brick façade will be replaced with stucco. The entrance will be relocated from the first floor to what is actually the basement, though it will read as the first floor in the new configuration. The new entrance will have a shape that recalls historic conditions on the block. New six-over-one windows will be installed, as will a new light. The existing concrete areaway wall will be replaced with a fence, with plantings behind it.
In the end, there will be a single residential unit on the basement level and two duplex units spanning the first and second floors. Floorplans indicate the full-floor unit will have two bedrooms and the duplexes will each have up to three bedrooms. There is a cellar level, but floorplans don’t show programming there.
LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan called the proposal “very positive for the block” and said the added bulk would be appropriate “within context.”
The local block association was not in favor of the proposed stucco façade and preferred two-over-two windows. Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City also questioned the material choice for the façade, suggesting clapboard.
The Historic Districts Council’s main concern was the rear addition. “HDC is concerned with the size of the rear yard addition, which doubles the volume of the house and is out of scale and context with this rowhouse-scaled block,” testified HDC’s Patrick Waldo. “In addition to violating the 30-foot rear yard requirement, the over-sized addition’s bulk turns this rowhouse into an apartment building and an addition this size would never be permitted in the rear of a single-family house.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the proposal on April 4.