PARK SLOPE — Locals slammed the proposed design for a new five-story condo building next to the Pavilion Theater at a meeting Thursday, with some comparing the new structure to a "penitentiary in Sunset Park."
Community Board 6's Landmarks and Land Use Committee voted unanimously to approve Hidrock Realty's plans to build 24 condos on Bartel-Pritchard Square and restore the Pavilion Theater, but only if architects make several changes to "tone down" the building, including using a less "bright" color of brick and setting back the five-story structure so it appears "less bulky."
“The base of new building should be more reflective of the residential character of Bartel-Pritchard Square,” said Community Board 6 member Jerry Armer.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission will review Hidrock's plans Aug. 4 and the developer will also need a zoning variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals to move the project forward.
The new condo building will rise on the site of a long vacant restaurant on Bartel-Pritchard Square, the traffic circle next to the Pavilion Theater and across the street from Prospect Park.
Hidrock is allowed to tear down the restaurant because it's considered a "non-contributing building" in Park Slope's historic district, representatives for the developer said.
Hidrock will add a floor to the Pavilion Theater building and completely renovate it. A fire escape on the 14th Street side will be removed and about 15 windows will be installed. There will be a 16-car parking garage beneath the building, but only people who live there will be allowed to use it.
Hidrock's architects and preservation consultants said Thursday night that they had tried to design the new condo building to echo Park Slope's famed late 19th century architecture, but locals argued that the new structure was out of character with its historic surroundings.
Peter Bray, chair of the Park Slope Civic Council's historic district committee, said Bartel-Pritchard Square was meant to be a "grand portal" into Park Slope, but that the condo building did little to honor that vision.
"They’re putting up a structure that’s not contributing to the circle,” Bray said. “I'm not asking the architects to design a total imitation of a 19th century building, but I think they can do a lot better."
One neighbor said the condos reminded her of bland 1970s and '80s architecture in Washington, D.C., while another said the proposed design looked like something "spindly" that belonged in SoHo.
“The building seems to have been dumped into [Bartel-Pritchard Square],” said Community Board 6 member Pauline Blake to thunderous applause. “It is so out of character that I’m embarrassed to be sitting here.”
A spokesman for Hidrock said the developer is "optimistic" that the design can be tweaked in response to locals' concerns.
"Hidrock felt that many of the recommendations were appropriate and achievable and appreciated the conditional approval,” spokesman Ethan Geto said.
City Councilman Brad Lander said he hoped the developer would incorporate locals' suggestions, but stressed that the neighborhood had something to celebrate — the preservation of Park Slope's only movie theater.
Architects said Thursday that the Pavilion was first built as a vaudeville theater about 1905 and that it became a movie theater in 1928. It's been one ever since, though in recent years it's suffered from problems including a bedbug scare and poor heating.
Lander said Hidrock could have easily installed a retail tenant that would have paid higher rent, such as a Dunkin' Donuts or Gap, but instead agreed to keep a movie theater there.
“The loss of the theater, and in particular its replacement with likely hideous retail, would be a really tragic loss in the neighborhood,” Lander said. “The preserving of a theater that's been there more than 100 years is a really important act of preservation.”
See Hidrock Realty's full presentation to Community Board 6 here.