Proposed New Canal Street Building Is a 'No-Go' at Landmarks Commission

Rendering of the proposed building at 312-322 Canal St. The nine-story building, planned for 19 apartments including eight duplexes, would replace an empty two-story structure that is the remnant of what originally were five separate two-and-a-half story residences built in 1825. Rendering: Paul A. Castrucci Architect

Jun. 06, 2017

After a bruising rejection by Community Board 1 last month, the architects of a proposed new building at 312-322 Canal Street presented their plans before the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday, and got more of the same.

At nine-stories high and 102-feet wide, the proposed red-brick structure would largely dominate the block of low-rise and narrow 19th century buildings between Church Street and Broadway. Despite an impassioned presentation by architect Andrew Vann of Paul Castrucci Architect, who tried to sell the design as a fitting addition to Canal Street and the Tribeca East Historic District, the commissioners sent him back to the drawing board and did not take a vote.

“The monolithic quality of this thing is such a no-go for me,” said Commissioner Michael Devonshire. “The mono-everything is just so inappropriate.”

Commissioner Diana Chapin echoed that view. “I think it’s too big, too bulky, too monolithic, too regular in rhythm,” she said. “There’s no real sense of a dialogue with the architecture in the area.”

“It’s completely the opposite of what happens on the street, which is colorful, it’s cacophonous, and the regularity of the shape interrupts that,” said Commissioner Jeanne Lufty.

Residents living near the building, many from 45 Lispenard Street whose northern windows would be blocked by the building, filled the hearing room, and 15 of them spoke against the project, calling it an inappropriate addition to the neighborhood. The proposed design, said John Hayden, a 34-year resident of 45 Lispenard Street, intends to capitalize on what makes Tribeca so special, while adding nothing.

In fact, he continued, it would detract, making the area seem like just anywhere else in the city.