Flatiron demolition plan met by preservationist pushback

Landmarks commission, community leaders seek restoration of Ladies’ Mile buildings

From left: 51-53 West 19th Street now and a rendering of Panasia Estate's plan
From left: 51-53 West 19th Street now and a rendering of Panasia Estate's plan

A rush to defend a pair of Flatiron buildings may shift a developer’s focus from demolition to restoration.

The two buildings at 51 and 53 West 19th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, lie within the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. Given the location, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, along with community leaders and preservationists, are trying to derail developer Panasia Estate’s plans to demolish and replace the structures with new construction.

“These are contributing buildings in a historic district, and it’s the obligation of this commission to protect these buildings,” Robert Tierney, chair of the LPC, said during a presentation by Panasia’s architect Smith-Miller and Hawkinson earlier this week. “To allow them to be lost would, I believe, diminish the district.”

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The developer’s plan would replace the five-story buildings, constructed for residential use in 1854 and later converted to commercial and manufacturing, with one 14-story building that lead architect Henry Smith-Miller said would be an improvement on the current facades, which are relatively dilapidated.

But Tierney, with the backing of all but one of the LPC’s commissioners, countered that the pair are suited to restoration.

Whether Panasia will change course and opt to restore the two buildings was not immediately clear. The developer did not respond to Chelsea Now’s request for comment. [Chelsea Now]Julie Strickland