UNION SQUARE — A year-round food kiosk is heading to Union Square next April, with a tentative menu that will include coffee, baked goods and sandwiches.
The kiosk, which does not yet have a name, will be a takeaway, lower-priced offshoot of the seasonal restaurant that will occupy the Union Square pavilion.
Both the restaurant and the kiosk will be operated by Chef Driven Market, a restaurant group that owns 5 Napkin Burger and Barbounia, which both have locations near Union Square.
Representatives from the Parks Department as well as from Chef Driven Market presented preliminary designs for the kiosk at a Community Board 5 meeting on Monday night in the hopes of gaining community approval before the plans go before the city’s Design Commission.
“The idea is to be kind of small and humble and reminiscent of other park structures that are there,” said Scott Kester, the architect for the project, told members of the Community Board 5 parks committee. “Four walls, coffee machine and a small sign in the front.”
The kiosk would occupy a space that was once a newsstand but has since been demolished.
The proposed design would include a glass, shed-style roof and glass walls similar to a greenhouse, which will provide a subtle nod to the nearby Greenmarket that takes over Union Square’s north plaza several days a week, Kester added.
While the restaurant, which also has yet to be named, will only be open seasonally, the kiosk will be open year-round, said Chris Farnum, a Parks Department architect who attended the meeting.
The menu and pricing has yet to be determined, Farnum added, but food will not be cooked inside the kiosk. Preparation and cooking will all take place inside the nearby pavilion restaurant, which has been clouded by controversy over the past several years.
The pavilion has not housed a restaurant since 2007, and the idea of bringing one back to what has become valued public open space has drawn protests and even legal action from advocates concerned about using a public park to turn a profit.
The city, however, has countered that a portion of the income from the restaurant will go to the city’s general fund, and the café plans to offer community and nonprofit events that will be open to the public.
But at the Community Board 5 meeting on Tuesday, committee chair Clayton Smith opened the session by emphasizing that the purpose of the meeting was solely to debate the design of the kiosk.
“This opportunity is not about the existence of the kiosk or the chosen operator,” Smith said.
Throughout the meeting, committee members expressed concerns about the proposed design.
“This looks like nothing in the park,” one committee member said, looking at renderings that were distributed only to committee members. “Why doesn’t this look more like the pavilion?”
Another member suggested the design was reminiscent of a bus shelter and didn’t fit with Union Square Park’s historic details.
One particular sticking point was a glass overhang that would jut out from the base of the kiosk and shelter customers waiting in line.
“I understand why that roof is there: to get people to go and spend money there,” one member of the committee said. “We just need to decide if we’re in support of that.”
After debating the design, the members ultimately decided to draft a letter to the city’s Design Commission with several suggested changes, including reducing the size of the glass overhang and incorporating greenery wherever possible.
The final decision now rests with the city’s Design Commission, which could review the plans as early as next week.