Brooklyn Heights

Landmarks Preservation Commission okays makeover of Brooklyn Heights Cinema building

June 16, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On Tuesday, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a three-story addition atop the former Brooklyn Heights Cinema building at 70 Henry St. Rendering by Morris Adjmi Architects
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Green light means go.

On Tuesday, The city Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved a plan to turn the Brooklyn Heights Cinema building into condos — after spurning two residential makeover plans previously proposed by the property’s former owner.

“The design is very elegant,” Commission Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said before the vote, which took place at the preservation agency’s Lower Manhattan headquarters.

The new owners’ proposed development calls for a three-story brick addition to be constructed atop 70 Henry St. The low-rise commercial building on the corner of Orange Street in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District was the home of the movie house for 44 years until its closing last August.

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The façade of the existing building would be restored, revealing red Philadelphia brick beneath its white painted exterior.

The existing building would be divided into two floors. The ceiling of the first-floor retail space would be just eight feet high to allow for more ample room for the second-floor apartment to be built above it, project architect Morris Adjmi said at the hearing.

The design calls for five apartments. One is a maisonette, meaning a ground-floor and second-floor apartment with its own front door on Orange Street. There would be one apartment per floor on the project’s third, fourth and fifth stories.

The building would be 50 feet tall — the maximum height allowed in the area.

New owners JMH Development and Madison Estates, which closed on their $7.5 million purchase of the property last November, had previously announced that the residential units in their proposed project will be condos.

“We’re pleased with the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s approval of what we believe is a well-conceived restoration and addition,” Gerard Longo, principal of Madison Estates, told the Brooklyn Eagle after the meeting. He was speaking on behalf of himself and joint-venture partner Jason Halpern of JMH.

Longo said the developers are in the process of seeking city Buildings Department approvals for their project. He expects interior demolition to get underway within six months. First the project designers will tweak the apartment layouts.

The shuttered cinema building was originally constructed in 1895 as a butcher shop, preservation consultant Ward Dennis said at the hearing.

Commissioners told Adjmi and Dennis to work with the preservation agency’s staff to choose a color for the brick on the development’s upper floors that would more sharply contrast with the exterior of the existing building than the deep orange color in Adjmi’s design. The contrast is meant to make a visual distinction between the new construction and the red-brick existing building.

Judy Stanton of the Brooklyn Heights Association offered testimony opposing the plan. Community Board 2 had approved the plan before the hearing.

The previous owner of 70 Henry St., Tom Caruana, sold the building after the Landmarks Preservation Commission raised objections to two different residential designs proposed for him by architecture firm Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel.

Caruana, whose family company had owned the building since 1968, had planned to include a movie theater in his proposed apartment building.

“We looked at it anew and thought about the right way to approach it, which was to restore the historic building and do something that was both commercial and residential,” Dennis told the Eagle after the hearing.

The preservation agency also voted unanimously on Tuesday to grant individual landmark status to 1850s-vintage Henry and Susan McDonald House at 128 Clinton Ave. in Wallabout and Art Moderne-style M.H. Renken Dairy Company buildings at 580 and 582-584 Myrtle Ave. in Clinton Hill. Read about these buildings in our previous landmarking coverage.


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