This past Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) unanimously approved developer Howard Hughes’ plan to convert the landmarked South Street Seaport Tin Building—which most recently housed the Fulton Fish Market until 2005—into a seafood market headed by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The developer, who hired New York City-based SHoP Architects, is expected to move the building approximately 18 feet south and restore damage sustained during the 2012 Hurricane Sandy and a fire in 1995.
A rendering of rear of the South Street Seaport Tin Building (SHoP Architects via Curbed NY)
“The move is being carried out for several reasons, according to the developer. First, it will allow them to make the building more flood resilient,” says Curbed New York. “Second it will be moved slightly away from the FDR Drive. This will no longer obstruct the view of the building, and the increased plaza space in front will make it more appealing to customers.”
Last spring, Crain’s New York Business reported that emails sent between city officials revealed talk of demolishing the Tin Building and the nearby New Market Building due to deteriorating piles. Controversy continues to surround South Street Seaport: construction is well underway on the 250,00-square-foot Pier 17 retail and rooftop park project, also developed by Hughes, designed by SHoP, but the subject of Landmark Commission modifications.
As cities face growing populations and neighborhoods hold increasing quantities of older building stock, preservationists and developers will continue to butt heads over oftentimes differing definitions of value. Some cities favor the revived practice of façadism as a happy medium that preserves the shells of lower story buildings while allowing for new, larger developments above. Yet others see this trend as an inauthentic compromise that inadequately speaks to the nature and scale of these historic structures.