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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

Carter's View

The Landmarks Preservation Commission held a hearing today on a plan to "recreate" in large measure the facade of a building designed in 1890-1 by Renwick, Aspinwall and Russell at 171 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village.

The building's facade had been radically altered in 1968 for its owner since 1921, the Tenth Church of Christ, Scientist and that new red-brick facade with a central slit window has been one of the few modern structures in Greenwich Village.

A modernist structure, it was remodeled in 1968 by Victor Christ-Janer & Associates from a 19th Century factory and store, according to David W. Dunlap's excellent book, "From Abyssinian to Zion, A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship" (Columbia University Press, 2004).

Mr. Dunlap observed that "Probably no Christian denomination in modern times has tried as many varieties of architectural expression as the Church of Christ, Scientist," adding that at this location "is the modern impulse: a brick wall at the end of Macdougal Alley, penetrated by corbeled openings, including a monumental shaft that serves the Gothic purpose of lifting the eye upward."

The upper floors of the building have not been used since the alteration.

The church has entered a venture with Property Markets Group, which is headed by Ziel Feldman, to create 9 residential condominium apartments on the upper floors of the building and redesign the church's facilities on the lower two floors.

TRA Studio, of which Robert Traboscia and Caterina Roiatti are the principals, is the designer for the residential portion of the project.

The building is at the foot of MacDougal Alley and half a block north of Washington Square Park.

The new facade will closely resemble the Romanesque-style building designed by Renwick, Aspinwall and Russell that was originally on the site and will have three bays of windows with arched windows on the next to highest floor.

The top floor will have smaller rounded windows and a translucent cast-glass band and small cornice will recall the original building's cornice, whose larger dimensions would not be permitted under current building regulations.

The cast-glass will also be used on the lower two floors to indicate the institutional nature of the church's portion of the mixed-use project.

Most of the commission's members indicated they were very impressed with the project, but several suggested minor changes in the fenestration of the top floor and in the treatment of the stainless-steel entrance canopy. One commissioner, Stephen Byrnes, said that the project was "a real treat."

Doris Diether of Community Board 2 testified that her board approved the project but suggested "less canopy over the sidewalk."

The Historic Districts Council testified that it was "very pleased to see this restoration and reconstruction work," adding that "this proposal will certainly work towards brining this building back to tits historic condition and will be on overall improvement for the neighborhood. It will be particularly importance in light of the building's location at a highly visible point at the end of MacDougal Alley."

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation also applauded the project's "sensitivity in restoring the building's arched openings and recreating the brick detailing." It suggested that some of the windows have more "divisions so as to minimize the sense of void which can be created by large expanses of glass," and indicated it would prefer a more substantial and bolder cornice.

Chairman Robert Tierney asked the applicants, who were seeking a certificate of appropriateness for the project because it is in the Greenwich Village Historic District, to work with the commission's staff and return soon for a decision.
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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.
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