New Apple Store in NYC Faces Opposition by Preservationists

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacBytes, Aug 3, 2005.

  1. MacBytes macrumors bot

    Jul 5, 2003
  2. cwedl macrumors 65816


    Jun 5, 2003
    Full Text of Article.

    "Plunked amid a phalanx of ornate buildings on Fifth Avenue - structures with classic Greek columns, cast-iron arches, filigreed cresting and intricate friezes - is a two-story stub of a building that has preservationists gnashing their teeth at the Apple Computer Company.

    The preservationists do not particularly want the decidedly unremarkable, 3,550-square-foot building at 136 Fifth Avenue, between 18th and 19th Streets, to be preserved. They are not demanding that its proposed replacement mirror the florid style of its environs.

    But if Apple hopes to get its plans for a retail store approved by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, the preservationists at least want the building to bear some of the architectural basics of its neighbors. Plans for the site, in the Ladies' Mile Historic District, are subject to commission approval.

    Apple's first plan, to simply replace the aluminum-framed storefront of what had been the Andrews Coffee Shop with a gray limestone facade - its logo of a large once-bitten apple etched into the stone - ran into opposition from Community Board 5, a local advisory body. Its second proposal, said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, a nonprofit preservation group, "presents this flat pane of glass that would be more appropriate to an aquarium."

    Apple leased the building two months ago from Andrew Zamel, who operated the coffee shop for 40 years, "for close to $800,000 a year," said Darrell Rubens of Winick Realty, who brokered the deal.

    Officials at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., did not respond to several telephone requests for comment on its architectural plans. But Karl A. Backus, a principal in the firm that designed the company's second plan, said he was not sure Apple would be willing to make further changes.

    "If anyone has seen their stores, they're a much more modern aesthetic. There's a certain branding image," Mr. Backus said. "And this particular site is in an historical district."

    The Ladies' Mile Historic District was designated in May 1989 to preserve a jagged conglomeration of 440 buildings on 28 blocks and parts of blocks running, essentially, from 14th Street to 24th Street and from the Avenue of the Americas to Park Avenue South.

    Between the Civil War and World War I, the district became the birthplace of some of the city's most famous department stores, including Lord & Taylor, B. Altman, W.& J. Sloane, Arnold Constable and Bergdorf Goodman.

    "The concept of 'shop till you drop' started in this area," said Jack Taylor, president of the Drive to Protect the Ladies' Mile Historic District. "All these great buildings, all this great shopping, engendered a feeling of street safety. And because it was so popular, that made it safe for women to go shopping unaccompanied by men for the first time."

    Monumental buildings throughout the area were designed by some of the most famous architects of the era, including Stanford White, Daniel H. Burnham, Henry Bacon, who designed the Lincoln Memorial, and Henry J. Hardenberg, designer of the Plaza Hotel. The buildings, many with mansard roofs, were in the opulent Beaux-Arts, neo-Renaissance and Queen Anne styles.

    The building at 136 Fifth Avenue does not quite fit that mold.

    A report from the Landmarks Preservation Commission calls it a "two-story, 25-foot-wide taxpayer" - an indication that the building does not have particular architectural merit. It was originally a "brownstone-faced residence of four stories," the report says, with the front rebuilt in 1894 for commercial use. After a fire in 1960, the two top floors were removed.

    Gary Parker, the district manager of Community Board 5, said that in March the board voted 21 to 5 to reject Apple's first plan to change the facade to limestone, with an apple logo carved in. "The board had concerns about how that sign blended with the historic architecture of the area, and also about it being a permanent feature," he said. The board's votes are recommendations to the landmarks commission.

    Last month, by a 19-to-7 vote, the board rejected Apple's second proposal, to tear down the building and replace it with a two-story building with a glass facade, with the logo suspended behind the glass. The board, Mr. Parker said, "felt that the proposed all-glass facade would be too modern" for the district.

    Mr. Taylor raised other objections. "It's essentially the same height as the existing building, which is an anachronism caused by the fire in 1960," he said.

    Also, it has no cornice at the top, and no bulkhead (a base meeting the sidewalk). And, Mr. Taylor said, the internal logo lacked a traditional store sign.

    Robert J. Kornfeld Jr., an architect and vice president of the preservation group, said the facade was "a plain membrane of glass with no mullions," or partitions.

    "It should have metal or masonry enframement for the glass," he said.

    The group is not opposed to a modern design, Mr. Taylor said, "but it should have the basics of architecture typical of the Ladies' Mile."

    Apple's architect, Mr. Backus, said: "We have made alterations. From our perspective, it hasn't been an adversarial situation.

    "In terms of Apple diverging from its typical design, I'm not too sure how much they'd be willing to go along, other than what they've presented so far."

    The landmarks commission will hold a public hearing on the second plan either on Aug. 8 or Aug. 16."

  3. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
    damn, i live at 130 fifth avenue.....


    and my house was built in 1901.
  4. michaelrjohnson macrumors 68020

    Aug 9, 2000
    I would have thought the limestone-engraved facade would have been an appropriate choice. That surprises me.

    I'm all for preserving historical districts, etc., and I hope that they can come to an agreement on the facade. However, it seems as though the advisory committee is being pretty picky.
    So they can't do a glass facade, not because they're opposed to a modern building in that location, but because it didn't have framing around the glass? C'mon.
  5. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    Traditional commercial building design involves what is called a "three-part facade." The parts from bottom to top: a bulkhead and display windows, the upper facade, and a cornice. This was the form used consistently in commercial design for roughly 150 years, and it transcended the changing of styles over that time, until the post-war era and Modernism. It's why historic commercial districts have visual unity, even though they might have been built over a period of decades or even longer. I suspect the city is holding out for these basic proportions for all infill development within in the historic district. Apple's architects should be able to make this work within the corporate identity they are trying to achieve with the buildig. It's not all that difficult.
  6. michaelrjohnson macrumors 68020

    Aug 9, 2000
    Wow. Thanks for the insight, well put.

    How might Apple offer a cornice while keeping it unified with their traditional identity?
  7. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    I agree with the preservationists too. I don't know what is or is not "too picky," because a historic neighborhood can be harmed gradually by small factors just as much (if slower) than by big violations.

    No big deal for Apple--we've read about Apple adapting to picky local codes before, and they will do so again. Their store will still have Apple style and still draw crowds.

    PS, "Plunked amid a phalanx." Just wanted to say that. "Plunked amid a phalanx."
  8. Gasu E. macrumors 68040

    Gasu E.

    Mar 20, 2004
    Not far from Boston, MA.

    Apple was able to develop an attractive storefront in Soho and other urban settings without resorting to an aquarium look.

    I'm not sure there is such a thing as a "traditional" look to the urban Apple stores. They are all quite different.

    I chalk this one up to failure of the architect, who should have understood the parameters of the historic district, and proposed concepts to Apple that fit.
  9. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    A cornice is basically just a continuous projection from the facade along the top edge of the building. It can be expressed in many different ways in a variety of materials. The issues are usually as much about proportions as they are about materials. But I'm really just guessing at what the city is expecting based on what I know about typical historic preservation standards (its my profession), but nothing really about the site in question or NYC's specific procedures and standards.
  10. michaelrjohnson macrumors 68020

    Aug 9, 2000
    Yeah, I was thinking in particular to the possibility that they suggested of replacing the building. (Tearing down/rebuilding) Though their suggestion was a 2-story building, not a 4-story like the others in the area. I was wondering how they would unify the structure with the surrounding areas (2-story vs 4-story).

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