What a slam!
A developer’s plan to build condos next to and on top of a Park Slope’s historic Pavilion Theater will make the beloved building look like a prison, say neighbors who gathered at a community board meeting on Thursday night to register their disapproval.
“The architectural design looks like the penitentiary in Sunset Park,” said one self-described longtime neighborhood resident who refused to give her name, referring to the mammoth Metropolitan Detention Center on 29th Street.
But the Community Board 6 Landmarks and Land Use committee nevertheless voted unanimously to okay Hidrock Realty’s bid to make-over the theater, which is part of the Park Slope historic district, and add 24 units of housing — albeit with the caveat that the developer should make several changes to its design so the building will blend in better with its surroundings.
Hidrock, which purchased the Prospect Park West and 14th Street building in 2006, wants to completely renovate the theater and use it as the basis of a five-story development, with a smaller art-house cinema inside. It also wants to replace the old playhouse’s windows and marquee — which were both added in recent years — and take down the fire escape on the 14th Street side of the building to make way for a new entrance and a garage door.
The architecture firm that designed the building insists all the changes were conceived with the character of the original structure in mind.
“The idea is that it would be deferential to the historic building,” said Wesley Wolfe of Morris Adjmi Architects.
But locals say the building is too flashy for the area surrounding Bartel-Pritchard Square — the grassy circular intersection where Prospect Park West meets Prospect Park Southwest — and that any new addition should go with the flow rather than steal the show.
“I think they can do a lot better to bring in elements that make it part of an ensemble cast and not try to stand out and grab for attention on the circle,” said Peter Bray, chair of neighborhood advocacy group the Park Slope Civic Council, calling the square an important “portal into the neighborhood.”
The committee members agreed, and told the developer it must change the proposed color scheme from a bright white to something more subdued, and set back a planned penthouse that is currently slated to jut out prominently from the roof.
The committee also approved the developer’s plans to tear down an abandoned restaurant next door, which members said does not contribute to the character of the square.
The developer plans to keep part of the building as a cinema, and says it will reopen as a smaller, four-screen multiplex on the ground floor after it is done with the renovations. Hidrock could have made more money by putting in a retail store in the space, and should be applauded for keeping the neighborhood theater up and running, said one local pol who fought to keep the movie house alive.
“The preserving of the theater, which has been there for more than a hundred years, is a really important act of preservation,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope).
The building first opened as the Sanders Theater in 1928 and has been through a handful of changes since then. It shut down in the late ’70s, and was finally renovated and reopened as the Pavilion Theater in 1996. The theater has become a little shabby in recent years, with moviegoers complaining of broken seats, heating problems, and bed bugs — though theater management insisted the latter charge was just a rumor.
The Community Board 6 executive committee will next vote on the plan, and then submit its final approval and any additional recommendations to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. The city agency may take the submission into consideration, but is not obligated to follow it.