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Landmarks Commission Defies Protesters, Rules St. Marks Place Office Project Is 'Harmonious' With Historic Block

Rendering of proposed office building at 3 St. Marks Place
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Rendering of proposed office building at 3 St. Marks Place Architect Morris Adjmi

A heavily contested plan to build an office complex on a prominent corner of St. Marks Place and Third Avenue cleared a critical hurdle on Tuesday, following a decision by the Landmarks Preservation Commission to approve the developer’s request to transfer air rights from a landmarked building across the street.

Real Estate Equities is seeking to build a 10-story office project at 3 St. Marks Place, which most recently housed Korilla, a Korean barbecue restaurant. Under the plan, the developer would use air rights from 4 St. Marks Place, a landmarked early 19th century house across the street, to make its proposed office building 20% bigger — to 50,300 square feet from 41,900 square feet.

Following the commission’s approval, the project now moves before the City Planning Commission. Zoning regulations require projects applying for air rights from a landmark across the street to go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

Community and preservation groups as well as elected officials have opposed the development, objecting to its size and the increasing commercialization and development of a historic stretch of the East Village that once embodied the city’s counterculture.

In a letter to the commission, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wrote: “There have been long-standing community concerns around development pressures forcing increased heights in this area and this project is yet another example of this. St. Marks Place largely consists of 4 and 5 story buildings and has tremendous cultural significance to the area that is being lost due to development and changes of use.”

Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which has been critical of creeping commercial development in the area below 14th Street, said the developer's request to make the office bigger "adds insult to injury."

All told, the commission said it had received 390 emails campaigning against the project.

Despite that, of the 11 commissioners, only one voted against the transfer of air rights. Among the conditions that must be met for the city to grant the air rights is that the project must have a “harmonious relationship” with the landmarked site.

“I just can’t seem to wrap my head around this,” said Michael Goldblum, the commissioner who voted against the application. “The historical context of the landmark was a continuous row of three-to-four story buildings. That is the context in which this landmark has been seen for decades, at the very least.”

Goldblum added that he could not see how a building of this scale “could be deemed as a positive enhancement to the landmark.”

Real Estate Equities did not immediately respond to a telephone message left by Gothamist.

Additional reporting by Adwait Patil.

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