Rehab begins for lonely little landmark, the Coignet Building

Whole Foods starts promised renovation of its next-door neighbor, a Gowanus icon

March 12, 2014 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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At last!

It’s rehab time.

Gowanus’ lonely little landmark, the Coignet Building, is getting the long-awaited fix-up its giant neighbor, Whole Foods, has promised.

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Scaffolding just went up on the distinctive 1870s-vintage city landmark at the corner of Third Avenue and 3rd Street in Gowanus – which is flanked by the upscale supermarket that opened to great fanfare in December.

A tip of the hat to website Gowanus Your Face Off, which first spotted the scaffolding on the beat-up but beloved building at 360 Third Ave., which the publicly traded Austin, Texas-based grocery chain pledged to renovate.

A sign posted outside the building says the restoration is expected to be finished late this year.

In recent weeks, the building was looking particularly fragile. Chunks of concrete fell off its stairways.

The moon-pale concrete that is the Coignet Building’s original facade will be revealed in coming months, according to a renovation permit issued last year by the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The building on the banks of the Gowanus Canal will be restored to its ghostly glory when workers remove the faux red brick that covers much of the structure, as the Brooklyn Eagle previously reported. The fake brick was added in the 1960s.

The original concrete facade is called artificial stone – a creation of Francois Coignet, after whom the building is named.

It’s the first known concrete building in New York City. It became a city landmark in 2006 after Preservation Commission staffers uncovered its forgotten history.

It housed the office of the New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company.

The building was a real attention-getter when it was constructed. A Brooklyn Eagle story published in 1873 said, “It challenges the attention of all wayfarers.”

The Whole Foods, Brooklyn’s first, was built on land purchased for $4,945,200 in 2005 from the owner of the Coignet Building, Richard Kowalski, city records indicate.

The gourmet grocer was fined $3,000 in December for failing to maintain the Coignet Building, Brownstoner.com reported.

The Coignet Building is for sale or rent. The brokerage that is marketing the property did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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