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Landmarks Commission Approves Jarmulowsky Building Restoration Plan

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Jarmulowsky Bank building, 54 Canal Street; December 2012.

The restoration of the Jarmulowsky Bank building is one step closer to reality this afternoon. Earlier today the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the plans, which include rooftop modifications but are mostly aimed at returning the structure to its original 1912 glory.  The Jarmulowsky, destined to become a boutique hotel, is owned by DLJ Real Estate Partners.

Ron Castellano, a Lower East Side preservation architect, helped lead the successful effort to protect the building in 2009.  Now he and restaurant operator Taavo Somer are handling the restoration project for the owners.  In a presentation before the commission, Castellano explained what will be involved in the huge overhaul of a building that has been neglected for many years.

Architectural drawing depicting new rooftop.

On the roof, water tanks and other equipment will be moved, a new elevator shaft will be  installed and an “occupiable” space will be created for eventual use by hotel guests.  The roof addition will be the equivalent of about two stories, but won’t actually be much taller than the equipment already sitting on the roof.

There’s also a plan to remove the building’s fire escapes, replacing them with small balconies and to restore much of the facade, which has been badly degraded over the years.  There will be new windows, glass and wooden doors at street level, a new balustrade and restored storefronts. Finally, the clock that was stolen from above the entry a few years ago will be recreated and replaced.

For the most part, commissioners were very enthusiastic about the planned improvements.  They used words like “thoughtful” and “respectful” in describing what Castellano and company proposed.   But they, as well as three public speakers, spoke passionately about one original feature of the building that the owners are not planning to restore.  Until 1991, one of the Jarmulowsky’s most distinctive features was a large, circular tempietto that was around 50 feet tall and included a dome ringed in eagles.  It was removed by previous owner Sing May Realty. Preservationists Joyce Mendelsohn, Carolyn Ratcliffe and Linda Jones all urged the owners to reconsider their decision, which was made because recreating the tempietto would be very expensive.

Some commissioners said they understood that the owners were already making a substantial investment to restore the Jarmulowsky. They suggested that grant money might be available to help defray the costs.  The architects working on the project said none of the roof modifications would preclude adding the tempietto at some later time.

There were some concerns expressed by commissioners about the height of the rooftop addition. In the end, two members of the LPC voted against the “certificate of appropriateness” for the Jarmulowsky.  While the project will be painstaking, today’s approval means work at the intersection of Orchard and Canal streets will be picking up in the weeks ahead.  it’s a transformation that has been decades in the making.


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