The Coignet Building’s comeback takes a step forward

October 19, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
I've Just Seen A Face I Can't Forget — the face of the Coignet Building, which has been freed of black construction netting. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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Good morning, Gowanus!

The famed Coignet Building is showing its true face to the world — at least partially.

And what a face.

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The top floor of the lonely little landmark, which is flanked by a massive Whole Foods at the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street, is now visible above a sidewalk shed and construction fence.

White artificial stone, beautifully restored, glows in the autumn sunlight.

Black netting that had shrouded the two-story New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company Building almost continuously since renovation got underway in March 2014 has been removed.

Before that, the eye-catching early 1870s-vintage commercial building at 360 Third Ave. had been covered in fake red-brick siding. Only a few bits of its original artificial stone façade were visible.

Whole Foods, which does not own the Coignet Building but is paying for the estimated $1.3 million restoration of its exterior, still has plenty of work left to do.

The staircase to the building’s columned entrance on Third Street has yet to be reconstructed. Windows need to be installed in boarded-up window frames. New doors must be hung.

Nevertheless, the newly unveiled historic face of the Coignet Building is a welcome sight for preservationists’ eyes.

The artificial stone was an innovative construction material patented by François Coignet in the 1850s. It’s actually concrete.

The Coignet Building is “a pioneering example of concrete construction in the United States,” says the city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s 2006 report designating the building as an individual landmark.

The low-cost artificial stone was manufactured in a factory complex on the land on which Whole Foods  has built its upscale supermarket.

Richard Kowalski, who owns the Coignet Building, sold that site to the publicly traded grocery chain for $4,945,200, city Finance Department records indicate.

As part of that deal, Whole Foods promised to fix up the vacant Coignet Building.

In September, Kowalski told the Brooklyn Eagle that he’s “not a happy camper” because Whole Foods started the renovation several years later than expected.

He is offering the building for sale or rent. There are “several prospects” interested in the property, he said last month. According to an online posting by brokerage Cushman & Wakefield, the asking price for its sale is $5 million.

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