A new era is near for a landmark West Village hotel. The Landmarks Preservation Commission recently heard a proposal to restore, renovate, and revive the long-dormant Keller Hotel at 150 Barrow Street. However, the proposed rooftop addition was a big sticking point for the commissioners and the public and the plan was not approved.
The six-story Keller Hotel, which sits on the corner of Barrow and West streets, was designed in the Renaissance Revival style by Julius Munckwitz and built between 1897 and 1898. Back when New York was much more of a port city, sailors would be frequent guests of the hotel. It was designated a New York City individual landmark in 2007.
Now, William Gottlieb Real Estate wants to bring it back to life, in conjunction with a new seven-story combined hotel and residential building next door at 144 Barrow Street. Gottlieb hired architect Morris Adjmi to work on the both structures, which would have some internal connections.
The work on the Keller Hotel would involve general restoration of the façade, new wood windows (though that would be approved at the LPC staff level), the restoration of a long-lost limestone portico, new wood storefronts, and the preservation of cast iron columns. Given the vulnerability of Manhattan’s shoreline buildings shown during Huricane Sandy, removable flood barriers would be part of the plan. So would the construction of a single-story rooftop addition, made of glass and metal, for hotel amenities.
Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron was the first to speak up, and said she had an issue with the idea of cleaning the façade. Commissoner Frederick Bland agreed, saying cleaning too much would erode the patina. He also didn’t want the iconic “HOTEL” sign cleaned too much. Commissioner Michael Devonshire was basically on the same page, as well.
Devonshire said he was in favor of putting an elevator in the building and constructing a necessary bulkhead, but did not like the proposed rooftop addition. Commissioner Diana Chapin didn’t like it either, saying there would be “more up there than needs to be.”
Commissioner John Gustafsson acknowleged that visibility is the “price you pay” for reviving a landmark hotel right off the West Side Highway, but said he only wants the bare necessities added to the roof.
LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan noted that after a decade of being empty, this is an “an opportunity to get this building back” and said she didn’t find the addition troubling. Commissioner Bland added that he was “on the edge here” when it came to appropriateness.
Manhattan Community Board 2, for its part, approved of the proposed work below the cornice line, but no the rooftop addition. Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City testified against the proposal for the roof.
“As one of the last surviving turn of the 20th century Hudson River waterfront hotels and reminder of the era when New York’s maritime activities were centered on the Hudson River, any changes to the original Renaissance Revival design need to be thoughtful and minimal. Unfortunately, the proposed rooftop addition is neither,” testified Sarah Bean Apmann of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. “This is a highly visible location and a twelve-plus foot tall, all-glass penthouse which can be viewed from many vantage points is not befitting this historically and architecturally significant landmark in the Far West Village. We ask that the Commission ensure that any changes not be visible in order that the integrity of the building be maintained.”
The Historic Districts Council also took issue with the rooftop addition. “HDC understands that the proposed rooftop bulk is for a party room, which we feel could be worked into the existing building instead of adding bulk to the top,” testified HDC’s Patrick Waldo. “Changing the program in this way would eliminate one story, leaving only the mechanicals on the roof and essentially eliminating the visibility of this mass. As this building is being developed at the same time with a new building next door which is unconstrained from landmark regulation, HDC suggests incorporating this square footage into the new building. As it will be taller, it could afford better views. The HDC looks forward to seeing a new proposal that accentuates, not competes with this Individual Landmark.”
A trio of local residents also testified against the proposal. One resident of 130 Barrow Street called it “out of character with the neighborhood.”
The commissioners seemed to really wish this proposal was ready for approval, but they weren’t there yet. They took no action at their session on February 21. Adjmi will have to come back with a revised design.