Volume 75, Number 48 | April 19 - 25 2006

Landmarks Commission approves Furstenberg theater/event complex

By Albert Amateau

The Landmarks Preservation Commission yesterday approved Diane von Furstenberg’s plan to convert two adjoining buildings just east of the High Line in the Gansevoort Market Historic District into a complex that includes theaters, event spaces, studios, offices and an enclosed rooftop studio.

The project would connect the four-story building at 444 W. 14th St and the three-story adjoining building at 446 W. 14th St.

Plans call for removing the second floor of the two buildings and breaking through the east wall of No. 444 to connect the new complex to the six-story building at 440-442 W. 14th St. that von Furstenberg is also renovating as her new design atelier and residence.

The building at 444 W. 14th St. will be known as the DvF Event Space and the adjoining 446 W. 14th St. will become the DvF Theatre.

Robert Hammond, a founder of Friends of the High Line, testified at the April 18 L.P.C. hearing in support of the project. Von Furstenberg is one of the major private-sector entrepreneurs who have provided funding for the conversion of the derelict railroad High Line into a 1.5-mile elevated park.

Hammond said the von Furstenberg project would be an appropriate addition to the neighborhood of the High Line Park, on which preliminary construction began last week.

He added that the removal of the second floor of the two buildings would make the project less dense and reduce its floor-to-area-ratio.

But Doris Diether, head of the Community Board 2 Landmarks Committee, said she feared the removal of the second floor of the two buildings would compromise the project’s structural integrity.

“We’ve had a number of historic buildings in the Village collapse,” she told the commission.

Diether also suggested that a building collapse could benefit an owner who would be able to construct a new building up to five stories tall, as opposed to the current landmarked buildings, which are three and four stories tall.

However, von Furstenberg representatives assured the commissioners that structural engineers had made sure the buildings would be sound. Robert Tierney, chairperon of the commission, said that a collapse was unthinkable and the commission vote to approve the project was unanimous.

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