Building On History

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:14

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Looking southwest, a before and after rendering of where the penthouse would wrap around to the interior of the south side of the Apthorp, blocking about half of the rooftop open-air arcade. Source: Higgins, Quasebarth and Partners, LLC [/caption] Apthorp penthouse plan moves forward Upper West Side Fourth time proved to be the charm for the owners of the Apthorp seeking to build a new addition perched on the top of the landmarked building on Broadway and 78th Street. After three rejected proposals, architects for Area Property Partners presented a scaled down version of their initial plan and were finally given the go-ahead by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The plan was approved mainly because it reduced the height of the penthouse, making it much less visible from the outside, as compared to proposals that were denied by the LPC in November of last year, and January and June of this year.

Previous proposals called for a two-story construction on the west side of the Apthorp with end pavilions that "obscured a fair amount of the original end pavilions on both the north and south," said Bill Higgins of the historic preservation firm Higgins and Quasebarth, who presented the latest proposal for Area Property Partners on Aug. 12.

Higgins said after listening to the commissioners and input from the public at prior hearings, his firm eliminated the new end pavilions, leading to a five-and-a-half foot height reduction, and tossed out a two-story central section, which reduces the height further by 11 feet.

All of the one-story sections of the penthouse were reduced by about two feet, and the penthouse will now be minimally visible from the street and not at all visible from the storied central courtyard of the Apthorp, said Higgins.

"We have a very substantial reduction in height, and we've also reduced the setbacks at the corners where there has been the greatest visibility, and that has had a substantial result on visibility from the street," said Higgins.

In keeping with previous proposals, however, the penthouse will wrap around to the interior of both the north and south sides of the Apthorp, where it will become two stories and nestle up against the interior-facing sides of both open air pavilions.

A handful of Apthorp residents have been against the plan from the start and attended the Aug. 12 hearing. The plan that was approved by the LPC will prevent them from accessing the west side of the Apthorp's rooftop, upon which the penthouse will be built.

Other entities, like the Upper West Side preservation group Landmark West, said the plan will destroy historic pergolas and loggias that make up an open air arcade on the south side arcade of the Apthorp's roof.

"The pergolas are a key component of this unique structure. The plan approved by the current LPC would allow the developer to fill in the pergolas and connect them with shed like structures to add additional units, thus destroying the open design," said Landmark West in a statement decrying the LPC's decision to approve.

Andrew Dolkart, a professor of historic preservation at Columbia University's School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, told the West Side Spirit he's against the new proposal because it does nothing to preserve the building, and, "it will have a negative impact on the design of the building, which was planned with open loggias on the roof, clearly visible from the street, that will now be filled in."

Another expert said the plan comported with the LPC's usual criteria for rooftop additions on historic buildings.

"It doesn't surprise me that LPC would require the proposed rooftop additions to be greatly reduced in height so as not to be visible from the street," said Jacqueline Peu-DuVallon, a historic preservation consultant and former employee of the LPC. "The commissioners generally only vote to approve rooftop additions that provide occupiable space when they are not visible, or only minimally visible, from a public thoroughfare, and that are one story high. It looks like the revised proposal has met those criteria"

The LPC voted unanimously to approve the proposal. Area Property Partners did not return a request for comment on when construction might start.