Developer Wants to Landmark 910 Union Street

Developers rarely seek out landmark status — often they run the other way. But according to a story in The New York Times, the developer of 910 Union Street in Park Slope is hoping to get the building landmarked (though the commission has not received an application yet). American Development Group added five floors to the original two-story Elks Club building. The developer did make an effort to maintain portions of the original structure, including a limestone entryway and cornice. It also used brick color-matched to the original for the five-story addition. Says Perry Finkelman, a partner with the firm, “what I wanted was for the average person to look at it and think it was created during that historic time period.”

Commenters were lukewarm on the building when we wrote about its reveal in October: “from the sidewalk in front that leaves me saying ‘what could they have been thinking?’ Still, it could have been much worse, if the original renderings from 18 months ago were anything to go by. With this reveal, my final verdict would be ‘meh!’” What do you think? Is this building worthy of being landmarked? Should buildings that have been so drastically altered be considered for landmark status?

910 Union Tops Off, but Not Much Else [Brownstoner]
910 Union Starting to Rise [Brownstoner]
Development Watch: 910 Union Street [Brownstoner]
Condo Coming to Union Street in the Slope [Brownstoner] GMAP DOB

30 Comment

  • As a development, this building is fugly at best. As a historic conversion, it’s an atrocity. Having worked with LPC, this building has a 0% chance of being landmarked. How would it even be considered? It would be like if MSG wanted to landmark Penn Station / MSG because it was built on the foundation of the old Penn Station.

  • daveinbedstuy

    Secondly, what would be the benefit anyway???

  • lol – this wasn’t totally new construction?

  • I would be shocked if the historic district boundaries were redrawn to include this building. The developer reconfigured the original structure by cramming 3 floors of apartments into what was a 2 story building. As a result, the original fenestration has been completely altered, and the remaining original architectural features, such as the pilasters, entry pediment and cornice (or, more accurately, half of the cornice), look like faux historical elements pasted onto a post-modern building.

    I get the economics of having an additional floor (and therefore 50% more living space) in the original portion of the building, but I wonder if the developer could have charged a premium for the original first and second floor spaces by maintaining the very generous ceiling heights and creating luxury lofts. That would have saved the facade while still allowing for the same number of apartments in the new tower above.

  • Also, I’m not surprised by the result given that the developer’s head of investments and finance thinks the neighborhood consists of “brownstones that are 50, 60, 100 years old.”

  • i have to assume that the developers would not have commented on this to the Times unless they thought they had a good chance of getting it landmarked. this leads me to believe that they may have had some promising conversations with the LPC already. we shall see…

  • expert_textpert

    “Mr. Finkelman and his associates say they are pursuing having the building included in the historic district, noting that landmark status would only increase its value. ”

    How much more do they think the value will increase if landmarked?!?!?!
    Don’t they know that their building is in THEE PARK SLOPE. They’re around the corner from THE park. They’re close to great transportation. And I believe they’re zoned for PS 321.

    Altho, they’re on a very busy street, traffic wise. All the other factors smell like money to me.

  • no-permits

    sales must be slow.

  • no-permits

    it would have been funny if the building had been landmarked between the time they bought it and before they started building. i wonder how much he would like LPC then.

    • The expectation of “no-permits” that the developers wouldn’t have been happy if the building had been landmarked between the time they bought it and before they started building is probably correct but, to their surprise, the developers would have ended up being happier than they will be with what they created. The LPC would have required a design for the addition to the original building that would have enhanced rather than detracted from the appearance of Park Slope and this would have made it much easier for them to find buyers and obtain higher prices for their apartments than they can with the eyesore that they created.

      Look at Petco’s Unleashed building on Seventh Avenue and the storefront of the supermarket on the Corner of Berkeley Place and Seventh Avenue. Thanks to being in the original Park Slope Historic District, they are far better looking than what was there before. As a result, both stores are far more attractive and enticing to shoppers than the majority of retail establishments on Seventh Avenue.

  • This is the first time I’ve seen a developer want to get their building landmarked because it would INCREASE prices. IMO this is both an accurate assessment and relatively enlightened.

    I suspect that the building has been too altered to pass muster with LPC but I do think it was a fairly decent adaptive re-use of an historic, but un-landmarked, building, considering the alternatives. Yes, it could have been better, but it also could have been torn down and replaced with bland new construction.

  • This building was on the calendar for landmarking, but the developers beat the landmarkers to the punch. They then took an historic building and turned it into an ugly but potentially highly profitable “development”–mostly three bedroom apartments because the building is indeed in the PS 321 district. Of course, in apartments of all sizes in the building, they got bedroom space by putting the kitchen in the living room. Be that as it may, to now want landmark status for your building because having it will end up “driving a real premium price” is just ludicrous–is there no limit to the greed of these “developers”? That was a beautiful little building.

    And those medallions! Give me a break!

    • no-permits

      BIS website says nothing about it ever being calendared.

      • You’re right; landmarking stops at 902 Union. I thought the last round brought it to the top of Union at PPW. Well, they are surrounded by landmarked streets, and this alteration is not in keeping at all with what was there. Now let’s wait and see what someone does to the parking garage next to this building.

  • Yeah, I don’t think this one’s going to fly. If he wanted it landmarked, he should have requested an evaluation for landmarking before he did anything. Had he succeeded, as no-permits said, he wouldn’t have been loving LPC much after that.

    Although, if someone starts out knowing that they are going to have their designs scrutinized by not only LPC, but by the Community Board and other preservation entities, they might design something that has a chance of passing muster in the first place, instead of the often-times hit and miss methodology that costs them time and money, which is of course, passed on to the consumers.

    In general here, I agree with what loweruwsider said. This building has lost most of what would have made it landmark worthy. (By the way, my friend, drop me a line sometime. Been a while.)

  • If the building was calendared for landmarking prior to the development, they have even less than 0% chance. LPC takes preemptive strikes like that as a slap in the face to the conservation community and will just use the hearing as a pulpit to blast the developer. If the block merits landmarking they will just map the border to go around the newer buildings like this one. Happened in West Chelsea and many other historic districts. Maybe they are talking about the National Register of Historic Places which has little if any established guidelines.

  • The audacious claim that the Park Union is worthy of landmarking is beyond belief. So is the hope that people will enjoy the appearance of this brick carbuncle for “quite some time, maybe in perpetuity.” Do the developers really believe that people will cherish the structure’s partial cornice, balconies with goofy medallions and lopsided limestone molding. Or, is this simply a PR stunt aimed at obtaining free publicity and higher prices for the apartments they are peddling.

    The developers appear to know as much about Park Slope as they do about good architecture. One of them said that the neighborhood consisted of “brownstones that are 50, 60, 100 years old.” I doubt if there is a single brownstone in Park Slope that was built that recently. A century ago, tastes changed and row houses with more modern facades became fashionable.

    The developers could have erected a building that made a positive contribution to the appearance of Park Slope. It’s a tragedy that they failed to take advantage of this opportunity. The article in the Times was titled, “Even a Developer Can Love a Landmark.” It should have been, “Only a Developer Loves this Landmark.” Why has the request for landmarking been delayed? Are the developers waiting for an opportune date? If so, my suggestion is April 1st.

  • Sounds like the have a good pr/marketing team which cleverly placed a free ad in the Times which has now been picked up by Brownstoner. The article doesn’t even make sense.

  • Only someone who knows nothing about historic preservation could think this building is eligible for the National Register, let alone as a New York City landmark. But hey! Thirty comments!

    • No chance of this being an individual landmark, but I don’t know that being part of an expanded Historic District is completely beyond consideration. Of course this building could have been enlarged better, but it also could have been very much worse had it been demolished and replaced with an all new construction s**tbox. I’d like to see something happen that might make developers moore aware of tye benefits of being included in an Historic District.

  • NeoGrec

    Surely we must assume the developer has an ulterior motive for this request? Here’s my guess: by limiting development in adjacent and neighboring buildings, he can protect the value of his building. He’s already completed his extension, so he can’t be held to historic district standards. But if he can prevent others from extending their properties, he will preserve the light, views etc that make his condos more valuable. Unfortunately for him, continuity of architectural character is one of the most important criteria for designation. This part of Union St self-evidently doesn’t offer that. So IMHO the chances for landmarking at this address are low indeed.

  • Whoa – finally went to Property Shark to see what was here before! Wow. Just wow.

    I actually thought that this was a really bad conversions of a loft building. That whole “five-story addition” thing obviously didn’t sink in!

    If this does become part of an expanded historic district, it is a pretty safe bet that LPC would label this as non-contributing (or, in LPC parlance “no style”) building. And that is putting aside the very (very) long list of bad design decisions that went into this project.

  • In a neighborhood where “Landmarked” is a coveted title, trying to spread talk of “applying for landmark status” is a marketing gambit, and nothing more. If potential occupants care about such things a broker can say the developer “applied for landmark status” which may sway the truly g`ullible, but it really means nothing. There is no way in hell this bastardized, brutalized, and metastasized form could ever be considered for landmarking. It s a grotesque and cynical ploy.

    Oh, and thanks for the quote! :-)