This morning the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to designate the Ridley & Sons Department Store Building at 319-321 Grand Street. The quirky “pink building” at the corner of Grand and Orchard streets was built in 1886. The enormous department store closed in 1901. The commissioners decided not to protect a newer portion of the building, 59 Orchard Street, that was added in the 1930’s.
A representative of the owner, attorney Bob Davis, testified just before the vote, endorsing the commission’s decision and acknowledging the building’s architectural and historical significance. Last year, Alfred I. Goldman, the property owner, told the New York Times he was not thrilled about the idea of designating the 125 year old structure.
The LPC staff report noted that Ridley & Sons was once the largest department store in New York City. At today’s hearing, Commission Chairman Robert Tierney said the application offered a rare opportunity to save a cast iron building on the Lower East Side. Other commissioners lauded the building as a monument to the neighborhood’s “heyday” and to its mercantile roots. There was even a remark about the pink paint covering a portion of the building. “I would hope the building would be painted one color,” a member of the commission quipped.
The original public hearing on the Ridley & Sons application took place in 2009. Tierney noted that the process took a long time but he said the painstaking process was worthwhile and he praised the owner’s “stewardship” of the building. The property has been on-and-off the market during the past several years. The owner wanted $25 million. There was a fire in the building last year but the damage has now been repaired.