A 25-story, 54-unit tower is proposed at 568 Broome Street, two doors east of the Holland Tunnel entrance. A four-story walkup and the 105-year old Our Lady of Vilnius Church that previously stood at the site were torn down over a year ago. Progress has stalled since then, likely caused by a redesign that follows an air rights purchase by developer Agime Group LLC. Tahir Demircioglu of Builtd, the architect behind the original 18-story proposal, appears to have been kept on for the new design, as well.
The original proposal consisted of a staggered tower, clad in beige stone on lot walls and along façade mullions. The street-facing façade was segmented into square sections, which consisted of sheer glass curtain walls. Balustrades lined the terrace setbacks.
No new renderings have been revealed for the redesign. Zoning diagrams filed with the Department of Buildings suggest that the new plan follows the original concept. Tower massing closely approximates the zoning envelope, with the structure set back above the 12th and 14th floors. The roof tops out at 287 feet, three feet below maximum allowable height. The bulkhead adds 30 feet, bringing the total height to 317 feet.
The tower would form part of the high-rise residential enclave rising along the edges of Freeman Plaza. The tree-lined public space, nestled between tunnel approach lanes, buffers traffic noise and anchors a growing residential and office community.
The tower pinnacle would top out slightly lower than the 27-story, 101-unit 111 Varick Street, under construction next door, which is expected to top out at roughly 360 feet. The pair would join the 484-foot-tall Trump SoHo Hotel Condominium, located a block northeast, and the 25-story, 115-unit 565 Broome Street, proposed catty-corner to the south.
The cellar would spread across the entire 5,706-square-foot site, and contain amenities such as a bicycle room, tenants’ storage, a children’s playroom and a fitness center, indicated in the floor schedule filed for the original proposal.
The tower spans the breadth of the 67-foot-wide lot and measures 57 feet wide, leaving space for a 30-foot-deep rear yard. Permits call for 87,852 square feet of total construction area. Residences would span 74,863 square feet, which lends an average of 1,386 square feet per unit. A 1,809-square-foot commercial space would share the ground floor with the residential lobby.
At the time of demolition, 572 Broome Street was among the three townhouses that remained from a tenement row that lined both sides of the block a hundred years ago. The buildings housed the families of longshoremen employed at the Hudson River docks four blocks to the west, many of whom hailed from Lithuania.
In 1910, Our Lady of Vilnius Church rose at 568-570 Broome Street. Named after the historic capital of Lithuania, the church served as the focal point for the community. Architect Harry G. Wiseman designed the church in sparse Gothic Revival style with Romanesque and Byzantine elements. Its yellow brick facade rose close to 60 feet high and faced the street with twin belfries and a large rose window.
In the late 1920s, high-rise factory lofts replaced many local residences. Demolition commenced around 1924 to make way for the Holland Tunnel approach. The tunnel ramp split the block in two, and the block across the street to the south was flattened entirely to make way for approach lanes.
The tunnel left a profound impact upon the neighborhood. The immediate proximity of 572 Broome Street to the tunnel prompted the New York Times to feature the building in a 2006 article that examined apartments in “improbable locations” around the city.
The article states that the Sousa family purchased the building in 1955 for $18,500, which would translate into $168,000 if adjusted for inflation. Mrs. Sousa turned a considerable profit when she sold the property to Agime Group LLC for $12.3 million in 2014. Around the same time, the developer purchased the adjacent church from Extell Development for $18.4 million, a year after Extell acquired the property for $16.5 million in 2013. Extell’s purchase came on the heels of a March 2013 rezoning of Hudson Square, which encouraged residential development in the district formerly zoned for manufacturing.
The purchase also sealed the fate of the church, which was the focus of a contentious preservation battle. The church continued to anchor the city’s Lithuanian community long after tunnel construction and industrial development uprooted much of the local population. Over time, the aging structure deteriorated so severely that, for several years, services were held in the basement after the nave roof was deemed structurally unsound.
In January 2007, the New York archdiocese announced the merger or closure of 21 parishes across the state. A month later the archdiocese ordered the closure of the church, citing structural concerns. Church pastors, parishioners, the local community, and Lithuania’s consul general rallied to save the structure before the court ruled in favor of the archdiocese in 2011. Demolition began in early 2015.
The demolished properties gained unlikely pop culture exposure when band Yo La Tengo featured a stylized aerial image of the church and the walkups next door, along with the tunnel entrance, on the cover of its 1997 album I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. Rolling Stone Magazine listed the album among the 100 Best Albums of the Nineties.
The loss of the church, emblematic of declining attendance and rising maintenance costs of many historic churches across the city, is unfortunate for the city’s built environment. On the other hand, the high-density residential proposal is appropriate for the site, which sits within two blocks of the Canal Street station of the 1 train and the Spring Street station of the A, C, and E trains.