A few years ago, the Senior Resource Group opened an office at the corner of 23rd & Christian. After only a short time there, it seems they like the location so much that they want to stay for the long haul. Earlier this year, principals of this company, which helps seniors choose insurance carriers, purchased the large building, which is also occupied by the Christian Food Market. A couple weeks ago, their attorney presented plans to the SOSNA Zoning Committee to demolish the existing building and replace it with something tall, bright, and contemporary.
The proposal, designed by Harman Deutsch, is for a five-story building with 3,000 sqft of commercial space on the first floor, office space for the insurance company on the second floor, and seven apartments on floors three through five. The look of the building as proposed is very contemporary, and would look different from just about everything in the neighborhood. Recognizing that five stories is taller than surrounding buildings, the architects set back the fifth floor, creating roof decks for the building’s three bilevel units.
We were expecting a degree of opposition to the project, but didn’t predict the number of objectors and the tone of their complaints. People were upset about a lack of parking. They were incensed about the height of the building. They didn’t like the look of the structure. Several objected to the combination of the height and the building’s appearance, given its proximity to historic Madison Square. As you perhaps could have guessed, there was no vote taken.
We don’t live on this block, but we’re rather disappointed that the project was so strongly opposed by so many. We can appreciate that people don’t like excessive height in their residential neighborhood, but if it’s appropriate anywhere around these parts it’s on Christian Street, especially on a corner. Just a block away, the old Peirce School monolithically stands, not bothering anyone too much. Three blocks to the east, Saint Charles casts a giant shadow but nobody complains.
More, the height of this project is necessitated by an attempt to provide the neighborhood with something it sorely needs- a large corner commercial space. The owners of the property could easily lose a story of height by eliminating the commercial space on the first floor and move the insurance office there. But losing that commercial space would mean missing the opportunity for a new business in the neighborhood, more energy in the area, and greater safety with more eyes on the street.
They’ll be back next month with a revised plan. Hopefully, they’ll be able to come up with some sort of compromise that will satisfy the complaints of the neighbors while maintaining the basic concept presented earlier this month.