Radical Transformation for Former Auto Repair Shop in Tribeca

Rendering of a sales office, transformed from a former garage, that is proposed for Greenwich and Vestry streets. Rendering: Bone/Levine Architects via The Tribeca Trib

Mar. 02, 2015

It’s yet to be seen what architect Robert A.M. Stern has in mind for the block-long condo building he is designing for West Street between Vestry and Desbrosses.

To make way for the planned 152,000-square-foot building at 268 West St., The Related Com­panies purchased—and is demolishing—Ponte’s restaurant and the five other Ponte Equities-owned parcels on the block.

But the project’s sales office, a couple of blocks away, looks to be a little showpiece of its own.

Well before those 44 condo units are ready to be lived in, they’ll be sold out of what until recently was Prima Auto & Truck Repair at 440 Greenwich St., at Vestry. The developer plans to restore and convert the one-story garage into a shiny real estate office complete with model apartment.

On the Greenwich Street side, two glass-and-steel storefront windows will be installed where there is now a roll-down gate and entrance to the former garage. Four matching windows on the Vestry Street facade will go into what originally were four loading bays, now filled in with concrete blocks.

Installed in the two westernmost window bays on Vestry Street will be what the project’s restoration architect, Joseph Levine, calls a “light box” or “lit glowing space that has some life.” While it is still unclear just what people will see in those windows, Levine said it will be temporary and not carry  advertising.
Awnings are proposed to hang over the building’s two entrances, near the corner. A loading dock-like stairway would go on the Vestry Street side and handicap ramp and stairs on Greenwich Street. (The entrance has to be raised, Levine said, to the flood plane elevation.)

Levine, who is also a consultant on the West Street condo project, to be designed by Stern, the dean of the Yale School of Architecture, said the sales office is anticipated to remain for about two years.  He showed his plans last month to Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee, which voted its advisory approval to the plan. On March 3, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved it. 

I think this is a terrific reuse of the building, said Commissioner Christopher Moore. When I look at it, my only concern is that they might have restored the brick too much. I really loved the older look to it, but its fantastic.

Despite the near total transformation of the building, one small vestige of its former life remains in the plans. On the corner of the building will continue to hang the small green-and-yellow sign that reads in all capital letters: “Registered Motor Vehicle Repair Shop.”