By Jill Colvin
MIDTOWN — Three Midtown buildings are being eyed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission for landmark status, including a miniature Empire State Building and what was once deemed the "world's biggest hotel."
Members of Midtown Community Board 5's Landmarks Committee scrambled to weigh in on the Commission's plans, which they were notified of just two hours before their monthly scheduled meeting Tuesday evening.
The Commission is set to hold a public hearing on the designations on Oct. 26.
The first building, the 12- story Hotel Wolcott on W. 31st between Broadway and Fifth Ave, was designed by architect John H. Duncan, the man behind Grant's Tomb in Riverside Park and the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch in Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza, according to descriptions provided by the Commission.
"It's a very handsome building," chair Howard Mendes said as the committee weighed in.
The second, the 500 Fifth Avenue Building on the northwest corner of W. 42nd St. has often been described as a mini Empire State Building — and for good reason. The 59-story Art Deco Skyscraper was designed by the same architect, Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, and built at the same time.
With a plot of land measuring just 100 feet by 208 feet, the firm used all the upward space it had, and dealt with different zoning requirements by creating asymmetrical set-backs, according ot the Commission's notes,
Several committee members said they were surprised it hadn't been landmarked earlier.
The third building, the 16-story Neo-Renaissance Mills Hotel No. 3 at 485 Seventh Avenue was originally designed as a residence for more than 1,000 single men and was once described by the New York Times as the "world's biggest hotel," the Commission said.
While the committee questioned its architectual significance, the Mills was one of the first "light-court tenements" in the country and served as a prototype for future designs, the Commission said.
The committee, which has an advisory role, voted to approve all three buildings for landmark status.