The block of Bond Street between Lafeyette and the Bowery has become, in less than a decade’s time, one of the most high-profile in the city. Not only is there 40 Bond, Herzog & de Meuron’s celebrated take on the cast-iron architecture of the city, but also 48 Bond, a black affair by Deborah Berke, 25 Bond, BKSK’s pixilated sandstone, and 41-43 Bond, bronze-shuttered minimalism from Stephen Harris. Now, add to that 25 Great Jones Street, a 13-story, L-shaped hotel that also stretches through to Bond Street.
Construction on the hotel began just before the area surrounding it became part of the Noho Historic District, but permit problems triggered a belated review earlier this year by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, despite the building being nearly complete. While many commissioners acknowledged they never would have approved such a tall, acontextual building, they were limited to critiquing the facade, which won unanimous approval today. The vote means construction, which had been on hold since mid-January pending the commission’s approval, should resume within four weeks, according to Barbara Resnicow, director of project management for the developer.
“I can’t quite say we’re making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but we are giving an eye to art and architecture in an area long known for it, and hopefully that will take the eye away from what’s problematic about this building,” Commissioner Elizabeth Ryan said during a commission meeting held this afternoon.
The project was initially designed by Dumbo-based TKA Studio, but the developer, Second Development Services, decided to bring in Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects to rework the facade in light of a string of successes the firm has had at the commission, including one for SDS. Rippling metallic sides and sheer curtain walls were replaced, respectively, with dark gray stucco and a mesh screen etched with a floral pattern—actually an abstract copy of artist and architect Alan Buchsbaum’s photograph Serious Leaves. Some commissioners particularly liked that the work of one of modern Soho’s foremost designers would live on in this project.
The building drew a great deal of outcry from the community, including some 90 minutes of testimony in opposition at a February commission hearing, but architect Henry Smith-Miller maintained that the opposition was directed not so much against his work as it was against the presence of a 48-room hotel on two relatively quiet residential streets. Taking this into consideration, Community Board 2 recommended the commission support the revisions, calling them superior to the initial proposal, troubling as it remains.
The commissioners agreed that while the new facade could not erase the building’s proportions, it would help to mask them. “I just think this is such an excellent project making so much out of so little that was provided to you,” Commissioner Margery Perlmutter told Smith-Miller. Her colleague, Roberta Brandes Gratz, praised with a faint damning. “This is a very inventive solution to an unfortunate and challenging problem, but as a solution, it will go a long way to overcoming this out-of-scale building.”
Commissioners still took issue with a few minor details, such as the decision to have two planters flanking the Great Jones Street entrance filled with bamboo, a 30-foot tall undulating wooden fence on the Bond Street side, and the decision not to treat the sides of the building with anything more than a smattering of punched windows. Still, these complaints were outweighed by the improvements Smith-Miller + Hawkinson made and did not stand in the way of the project’s approval.
Despite the initial setback created by having to take the project through the commission, Resnicow, in an interview following the vote, said the process led to a better building. “It’s a great solution for the community and the commission,” she said. “It was a learning process for us, but ultimately the project has been improved.