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