Lot Reduction of Whole Foods Landmark Still Needs OK


Well, we really thought we’d settled the drawn-out business of Whole Foods getting approval to build a store at 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue inn Gowanus after the Board of Standards and Appeals approved a variance request last month, but, according to a story in the Journal, the City Council still needs to vote to approve the reduction of the lot size of the landmark building sitting on the grocer’s site. The LPC already approved the lot reduction of the Coignet Stone Company Building in January, so the Council vote is probably 100% pro forma, but the article gives a nice primer on the history of the landmark as well as why some preservationists aren’t pleased about the Whole Foods store wrapping around the building very tightly. The article talks about how the building was constructed in 1872, landmarked in 2006, and how the “elegant Italianite mansion provided office space for Coignet and subsequent companies, including its longest-running tenant, the Brooklyn Improvement Co., from which Coignet leased the land for its stone works.” We’re going to block quote more about the building’s history, since it’s so interesting:

Designed by William Field & Son, the curious building was a showcase for Beton Coignet, a new concrete developed in France by François Coignet in the 1850s. The Brooklyn mansion was built of the very material it championed and displayed various architectural features and ornament cast from molds, showing that concrete could replicate the stone-and-chisel method of old. ‘It was definitely an advertisement [for the company]. They put it on the most visible position on the lot,’ said Matthew Postal, a landmarks commission researcher who studied the Coignet building, ‘This is a building that was testing a new technology; it would be an engineering landmark.’ Noteworthy commissions using the new building material included portions of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cleft Ridge Span in Prospect Park, the oldest such arch in the country. Coignet also supplied concrete for new residential developments, simultaneously rising to prominence with the Brooklyn Improvement Co., founded by Edwin Clark Litchfield.

While Whole Foods has pledged to give the building a facelift, some preservationists fear that by reducing the lot size, the building’s distinctiveness will get lost in the sauce compared to the big store next to it.
Market Nears A Landmark [WSJ]
After 8 Years, Brooklyn’s First Whole Foods is Finally a Go! [Brownstoner]
LPC Approves Reduction of Coignet Stone Lot [Brownstoner]
Preservationists: Don’t Shrink Gowanus Landmark’s Lot [Brownstoner]
LPC Hearing on Reduction of Gowanus Building’s Lot [Brownstoner] GMAP

10 Comment

  • geez, what is the problem now???
    why does every single thing have to have 100 meetings to get anything done.

    you would think all these morons we have here would be so happy as to finally have someone that wants to improve this wasted patch of land that has been contaminated for decades and build something on it, yet everyone is worried about how much space it will take up, yet for decades there was nothing here but wasted garbage ridden land, yet no one did anything about that.

    we really do have a bunch of morons working for us.

  • While Whole Foods has pledged to give the building a facelift, some preservationists fear that by reducing the lot size, the building’s distinctiveness will get lost in the sauce
    compared to the big store next to it.

    now the preservationists are worried??? NOW THEY ARE WORRIED !!!

    you gotta be kidding?????

    they did nothing about that crappy little building for decades, NOW they are worried…….whats wrong with this picture?????

  • lets build this thing already. fine example of how unproductive the city is…..
    Whole Foods just need to wait 2 more years and that building will probably crumble by itself before all the approvals are obtained….

  • Good god just build this dammed thing already!! The preservation community is really totally out of control in NYC. They’ve lost all perspecitve and all relationship with reality. This building is a disgraceful eyesore. WF wants to pay to renovate it, who can possibly give a crap if its surrounded by another building?!? Should we promote urban blight so that all architectural gems are stranded in litter strewn brownfields that allow thier faded glory to stand on its own?? Good grief

  • I do take issue with the statement that the preservation movement is out of control in this city. If you look at the totality of the city, perhaps 3% of it is actually landmarked, and when it comes to the big fights, we lose as many, if not more, than we win.

    Neither the LPC, nor preservationists, own the Coignet building, and never have, so blaming them for the building’s state, now or in the past, is a futile gesture, and a misplaced blame.

    However, I will say that it is time to move on with this. The building is going to be restored, the lot developed, and that should be it. Since the LPC ok’d a smaller lot, let’s just get the ball rolling before it really is too late to save this building, or the entire project. It’s still a victory.

    Also, the article states “some preservationists.” Like political parties or any group of people, preservationists are not a monolithic body. There are those who would save every brick, and those who take a more practical approach, to those who only want to save the biggest and the best, and nothing else. “Some” preservationists do not always represent the majority of the movement.

  • What is wrong here is the way Whole Foods is being allowed to walk all over the landmarks law on a promise of some kind of building cleanup that can’t be enforced. Also the gymnastics that Whole Foods is putting on to get the Landmarks law changed is the reason the project has been delayed. They are tripping themselves up doing these gymnastics.
    If they had done the required Landmarks Public Hearing, this all would have been in the past and construction might be under way.

    But of course, a Landmarks Hearing would meant that Whole Foods would have to show everyone just what they are building. Through the Landmark Hearing, there would have been a binding agreement that Whole Foods build to the approved design images. The only reason for Whole Foods to proceed the way they have with landmarks is that they are planning to build a hideous big-box structure that doesn’t even have windows where the community has asked for them.

    And now we will have the base standard for all big businesses to follow to opt out of Landmarks oversight. So lets build more ugly environments!

    • “The only reason for Whole Foods to proceed the way they have with landmarks is that they are planning to build a hideous big-box structure that doesn’t even have windows where the community has asked for them.”

      do we know this? seems most whole foods in nyc have lots of windows.

      • Skillman, with out an LPC hearing, your guess on the windows is as good as any one else’s–but just a guess.

        Gowanus isn’t getting a Whole Foods market like the others in the city’s urban pedestrian settings. Gowanus is getting their suburban store model, parking lot and all. If you look at that type of WF store model you might be able to take a better guess about where windows might be included in this design.

        But why are we guessing here when an LPC hearing would have revealed the whole of the relationship of the new store as it surrounds the landmarked building? The landmarks law entitles the community to review these details. Why should the community forfeit this sort of review?

    • “The only reason for Whole Foods to proceed the way they have with landmarks is that they are planning to build a hideous big-box structure that doesn’t even have windows where the community has asked for them.”

      do we know this? seems most whole foods in nyc have lots of windows.

  • So now we see what Whole Foods has built, a suburban style big-box store with entrance from the parking lot that the pedestrians are having a hard time location. The one window is filled with a display of bagged chips –yes it is the great natural chip distribution center of Brooklyn.

    As for the Coignet, the construction of the big-box store has left it in a very sorry state with cracks viewable from the sidewalk. Many think Whole Foods was hoping that their work would cause it to fall down. But as a showcase building for Coignet martial, the builders clearly used some of their best, hardest material because it is still standing.

    We are all still waiting for Whole Foods to show some sign of actually repairing the building. So far no action has been taken on the site.