Office Building Conversion Planned for Tribeca Parking Garage

Rendering of converted 56 North Moore Street, between Greenwich and North Moore Streets, with proposed stepped-back, 50-foot-high rooftop addition. Rendering: ODA Architecture and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners

Posted
Jul. 24, 2020

Update 7/29/20: At its monthly meeting on Tuesday, July 28, Community Board 1 voted to request the Landmarks Preservation Commission to hold over its scheduled upcoming hearing on the 56 North Moore Street project until the committee is able to visit the site and reassess its previous approval.

Plans are afoot to convert a five-story, 220-space Tribeca parking garage into a seven-story office building.

Architectural designs for the 1914 structure at 56 North Moore, a commercial survivor on one of the neighborhood’s priciest residential streets, includes a 50-foot (including elevator bulkhead), two-story rooftop addition that has become a new focus of scrutiny and concern after first receiving enthusiastic support from Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee.

The building is in the Tribeca West Historic District and its architect, Eran Chen, showed his plans earlier this month to the committee, which expressed amazement that only a tiny portion of a bulkhead would be visible from the street, a criterion often used to judge the appropriateness of add-on construction in a landmark district.

“I’m stunned that [the] addition could be almost invisible from any angle,” said Bruce Ehrmann, chair of the committee, which voted its advisory approval to the proposal. “Especially since it’s a low-rise block.”

The committee based that approval on photographs it was shown of a mockup constructed on the building’s roof, taken from various positions on the street that included, presumably, the most potentially revealing ones. But a later site inspection by the Trib showed that considerably more of the addition could be seen when viewed from other angles west of the site.

Would the new information change the committee’s—and likely the upcoming full community board’s—position when it is taken up by the full board on Tuesday, July 28? The Trib sent its own photos to Ehrmann, and the vice chair, Jason Friedman, an architect who often handles projects in landmark districts in his own practice. 

“I could never get behind an approval on that,” Friedman said over the phone, speaking for himself and not the community board. “They should be called out on this. I really think it’s deceitfulness.” 

Friedman, who parks his car in the garage, said he had already noticed more visibility of the mockup, from the east, than originally shown, and took his own photo to illustrate it. “I’m walking by and I’m like, this doesn’t strike me as what was presented. It doesn’t feel like what I thought I saw.”

(Ehrmann was “surprised” by what he saw when he visited the site, he said, but declined to comment further until the full community board meeting.)

The proposal is scheduled to go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

On Thursday, July 23, Chen answered the Trib’s request for comment by forwarding an email to him from the preservation consultant on the project, Cas Stachelberg of Higgins Quasebarth & Partners.

Stachelberg wrote: “Earlier this week we added two additional view studies to our presentation for the LPC public hearing which align with the photo that Carl attached to his email.  This was not an intentional omission on the team’s part but was a result of the fact that I am not currently living in NYC and was not able to get the site to review the mock up’s visibility until last week - after the CB meeting.  As soon as I saw this additional visibility I photographed it and Yaarit and Patricia had it rendered and included in the LPC presentation. I am intending to reach out to Bruce at CB1 to alert him and his committee of this later today or tomorrow.”

“Doesn’t change my mind,” said Friedman, after being shown Stachelberg’s response.

Chen did not respond to a request by the Trib to see the added view studies.

Another major feature of the proposal, along with the stepped-back roof addition, would be pedestrian views into a double-height basement level through what are now two giant car-elevator shafts. 

Chen said he regards the two big window views from the sidewalk, into what will be former car elevator shafts, as “a celebration of the elevators that used to be there,” with rails and cables installed to “artistically recreate” a memory of them. The garage’s arched car entrances on either side of those openings will become the entrances to the office building.

Unlike many of the other former industrial buildings on the block, this one never had an awning. But Chen is proposing to add one, imprinted with the building's name, “The Garage.” 

While there were differences of opinion about the awning, most committee members praised the overall plan, based on the presentation shown to them at the time. For Jason Friedman, who had jokingly complained that he would lose a parking space, all that has changed. And he said he holds the architect responsible.

“I don’t need to tell Eran how to conduct his business. I mean, he’s a superstar,” Friedman said of Chen, who is founding principal of the highly regarded ODA Architecture. “They hire a preservation consultant, and they do this. It’s crazy.”

The conversion is being developed by Metroloft, the company behind several major residential conversions in Lower Manhattan, including 443 Greenwich Street, 20 Exchange Place and 63 Wall Street. There is currently no tenant for the building, according to Chen.