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SoHo BP Station Could be Replaced by 7-Story Office and Retail Building

By Andrea Swalec | April 2, 2013 7:19am | Updated on April 2, 2013 6:32pm

GREENWICH VILLAGE — From gas pumps and beer steins to shopping bags and business casual.

A SoHo property owner is planning to tear down the bar Puck Fair and the SoHo BP gas station, at Lafayette and Houston streets, to make way for a mixed-use office and retail building.

LargaVista Companies —which owns the lots used by the gas station, bar and a former mechanics' garage now used for retail — revealed plans Monday evening for a seven-story, 91-foot-tall building on the southwest corner of Lafayette and East Houston streets.

Architect Rick Cook of COOKFOX showed designs for a structure that intersperses gardens and glass, offering greenery on multiple balconies and the roof top. The result would be additional flora on busy East Houston Street.

"These little moves of re-knitting the ecosystem do work," he said at a Community Board 2 landmarks committee meeting held in the Village.

The building would be made of durable limestone on the first floor up until about eye level. The rest of the structure would be covered in white terra-cotta with a crackled finish, with silver metal details.

Zoning attorney Elise Wagner, who is representing LargaVista, said the first two floors of the building are slated to be used as retail, plus the basement level. The space could house a single store as big as 30,000 square feet or could be broken up into several stores.

By way of comparison, the three-story Uniqlo shop on Broadway clocks in at 36,000 square feet. 

Though the development would demolish two buildings and a gas station that fall within the landmarked SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District, they have little individual value, said historic preservation consultant Bill Higgins, who is also representing the developer.

"They all have low levels of integrity and significance," he said.

The LPC is scheduled to review the plan at a public hearing that starts at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 9. CB2 will issue an advisory vote on the project at its full board meeting April 18.

If the project obtains LPC approval, it will then go before the City Planning Commission for permission to create ground-floor retail, which is not allowed under the current zoning.

LargaVista president Marcello Porcelli, who is a second-generation owner of the gas station lot, said developing the space was a longtime dream of his.

"Ever since I was a little boy I've wanted to expand this site for a higher and better use," he said.