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The rezoning of the Far West Village approved this month by the City Planning Commission may jinx a small, new project designed by Christian de Portzamparc, who won the Pritzer Prize for Architecture in 1994, at 385 West 12th Street.

The site was recently acquired from Diane von Furstenberg, the designer, by Coalco NY, whose managing partner, Edward Baquero testified before the planning commission recently that his project would retain the existing three-story townhouses at the site and erect a new six-story structure behind them designed by Mr. de Portzamparc, who designed the angular office and retail LVMH Tower on 57th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues.

The new six-story building, however, would exceed the height and density regulations of the proposed rezoning, which will be voted upon by the City Council probably before Thanksgiving. Mr. Baquero wanted his project site excluded from the area that would be rezoned, indicating that the reduced size permitted in the rezoning might jeopardize the project.

In a telephone interview with CityRealty.Com today, Mr. Baquero said that the inclusion of his site in the rezoning would reduce its F.A.R. (floor-to-area ratio) from about 6 to 4, despite the fact that virtually all the buildings in the immediate vicinity are larger. He said he was "really upset" and "amazed" that there is "no rational reason" for including his site in the rezoning, especially since he was willing to restore the carriage house on the site, which is not an official city landmark.

Mr. Baquero said he would continue to "reach out" to interested parties to try to convince the City Council to exclude the site from the rezoning.

In recent years, famous architects have given numerous new residential projects considerable "celebrity" cachet such as Richard Meier's designs for buildings along West Street, Michael Graves's design of 425 Fifth Avenue, Robert A. M. Stern's design of 15 Central Park Place, Charles Gwathmey's design of 445 Lafayette Street and the late Philip Johnson's design of 330 Spring Street.

Coalco New York was founded in 1997 by Coalco International, which is based in Russia. Coalco New York is headed by Vassily Anisimov and its real estate projects in the city have included 80 Lafayette Street, 321 Bowery, 636 Greenwich Street, 400 Broome Street, 201 East 14th Street, the Sugar Warehouse Building at 79 Laight Street, and 30 Crosby Street.

A rendering of the Portzamparc design at 385 West 12th Street indicated a multi-setback, multi-colored structure that was very complex given its relatively small size. The glass-structure would be hardly visible from the street because it would be setback at the fourth floor, Mr. Baquero said.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation told CityRealty.Com today that the planning commission did not exclude Coalco's site from the rezoning proposal, nor did it add two controversial sites to it, a plan by The Related Companies to redevelop the Superior Ink facility at 70 Bethune Street, and a plan by the Witkoff Group to redevelop the Whitehall Storage building at Charles and West 10th Streets.

Mr. Berman said that Coalco was "still refining its plans" and seeking his organization's support, but he said that so far the organization was still opposed to having that site excluded from the rezoning, adding that it would continue to campaign for the rezoning to include the other two sites to limit their size.
Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.