CB1 Calls Warehouse Redo 'Scar on Neighborhood.' Landmarks Loves It.

Current and proposed views of 29-31 Leonard Street, looking southwest across Varick Street. The project includes the conversion of a one-story former garage into a commercial building. Images: GE-T Architects

Feb. 11, 2019

A developer’s proposed design scheme for a former Tribeca spice warehouse, denounced by Community Board 1 last month as a “permanent scar on the building and a neighborhood,” won approval and mostly laudatory praise last week by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Transit Trading Corp.’s former spice importing home at 29-31 Leonard St., is slated for residential and retail conversion, with its adjacent former garage, at 198 West Broadway planned as a storefront. Located in the Tribeca West Historic District, the design requires city Landmarks approval, with an advisory recommendation by the community board.

A major part of the design, drafted by architect Gil Even-Tsur for developer David Silvera, is a vertical assemblage of windows on the north and south ends of the building’s mostly blank east-facing wall that overlooks Varick Street. What landmarks commissioners called a “cut” for the windows on the north side, the CB1 resolution panned as a “humongous gash.”

The 80-foot tall,15-foot-wide addition of windows, the community board resolution said, would forever strip the building of “its status as a fine example of the typical historic building style (dry goods warehouse) that makes the Tribeca West Historic District one of the most intact historic districts in Manhattan.”

But in weighing in on the proposed design, following a presentation by architect Even-Tsur at the Feb. 5 Landmarks hearing, most commissioners praised the windows addition.

“This is a great, great proposal,” said Frederick Bland, who referred to the windows as the “poetry of the scheme.”

Anne Holford-Smith called the window “cut” beautiful, and Joan Lutfy said, “It really enhances the building in many ways.” The only disenter, John Gustafsson, called the window intervention a “wonderful treatment” but out of character with the building's history. “With all due respect for my colleagues, I do not find the elimination of that fabric appropriate,” he said.

Glass and metal also would dominate the first-floor Leonard Street front, with separate residential and store entrances beneath a new canopy. A glassy storefront is proposed for the one-story building at 198 West Broadway.

Some commissioners took exception with the amount of glass on the former garage and on the canopy design (as did the community board), but the LPC approved the plan with requirements for minor changes.

The two seven-story buildings, 29 and 31 Leonard Street, were built in 1881 and joined by an opening inside the buildings in 1938. Developer David Silvera, who bought the building last year for $25 million, plans two apartments on each of five floors above the first floor, with a single penthouse on the seventh floor. The roof of the converted garage at 198 West Broadway would become a terrace for the second floor apartment.