LOWER EAST SIDE — The owners of a former bank building asked the community board to oppose an effort to landmark the structure, saying the designation would throw a wrench into their yearslong efforts to preserve the early 20th-century architecture as they build a 12-story residential addition on top.
“To derail our process right now would be devastating for our family,” said co-owner Brook Jones, whose family acquired the old Provident Loan Society building on the corner of Essex and Houston streets more than 25 years ago.
“It would be a terrible financial hardship for us."
The owners went before Community Board 3’s Landmarks Committee — which was considering a proposal to landmark the neoclassical building Wednesday night — to oppose the proposal and reveal their construction and preservation plans for the property.
Working with architecture firm Rogers Partners, the owners intend to construct an apartment building above the former Provident Loan Society branch with a design influenced by the artist Jasper Johns, who once lived and worked in the building, said the owners’ representatives at the meeting.
The architects also plan to make the building as sustainable as possible and will pursue LEED certification, according to a press release from Rogers Partners.
At the same time, the firm will restore and keep the original building’s architectural features intact, although it will gut the interior, which will be used as a commercial space, said architect Robert Rogers and the owner’s attorney Frederick Becker.
An effort to landmark the site began in October, after a rendering of a residential tower built above the structure surfaced online, although it was designed by a firm that parted ways with the owners.
Locals feared the owners would demolish part or all of the building, which was built in 1912 for the Provident Loan Society, a not-for-profit lender that pawned items for the neighborhood’s less fortunate residents at lower rates than traditional pawnbrokers offered at the time.
An online petition supporting the landmarking that has received more than 200 signatures and a request for evalution, which would determine if the building was eligible to receive the designation, was submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The owners said preservation was always part of the plan and asked the community board committee to vote against the landmarking proposal, saying it was an “imposition” that was “unfair” and “unnecessary.”
“We’re just asking for you to trust us and to do the right thing here because we care as much about this building as anyone possibly can,” Jones said.
The committee did not object to the plan but worried the building would be unprotected if it was sold in the future. Ultimately, it drafted a resolution supporting the request for evaluation, noting the owners’ preservation efforts.
If the LPC decided the building met the requirements for landmarking, the property owners could return to the community board, the committee said.
The community board will vote on the resolution at its full board meeting on Dec. 22.