Last Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved changes to the ground floor of the St. Regis Hotel which will allow for a new retail tenant.
The hotel’s address is 699 Fifth Avenue, at the southeast corner with East 55th Street, in Midtown. The 19-story-tall Beaux-Arts style building was designed by Trowbridge & Livington and constructed between 1901 and 1904. It was expanded by Sloan & Robertson in 1927 and designated an individual landmark on November 1, 1988.
Diamond jeweler De Beers and Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer recently occupied the storefronts along Fifth Avenue. Jeweler Harry Winston is in the process of taking over the left side from De Beers. Watchmaker Breguet will be taking over the right side, and it is is this space the LPC considered on April 4.
Los Angeles-based Gruen Associates is the architect of record, but the presentation was made by architect Jeff Taylor. It will see the cornice over Harry Winston extended, a definite improvement for the structure. Existing limestone will also be replaced. Breguet will occupy two bays; whereas TAG Heuer had its entrance in the left one, Breguet will have its on the right. Each bay will have an awning, with their heights matching the ones at Harry Winston, though that does not appear in the rendering above.
Commissioner Michael Devonshire wondered why the brand needed nine signs. The proposal called for one in each of the upper windows, one on top of each awning, one on the front of each awning, one in the left lower window, and two in the right lower window. He was told it was to give the brand better exposure. Commissioners Adi Shamir-Baron and John Gustafsson agreed with Devonshire that there was too much signage. So did Commissioner Jeanne Lutfy, who said it was redundant and “beating customers over the head with a hammer.”
Though Manhattan Community Board 5 approved the proposal, the Historic Districts Council joined the commissioners in its distaste for the signage. “HDC finds the nine signs proposed in this application to be excessive,” testified HDC’s Patrick Waldo. “Our committee has faith in shoppers’ ability to identify this store using fewer signs.”
In the end, the commissioners approved the proposal, but directed the applicant to eliminate the upper left sign as well as the ones on the top of the awnings, reducing the number of “Breguet” signs from nine to six. The vote was unanimous.