(Left: The Andrews Coffee shop, as it is now. Right: Apple’s rendering of its plan to replace the building with its newest New York store.)
With the vaguely retro-chic Andrews Coffee Shop at Fifth Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets now shuttered, Apple Computers’ plan to build a store on the site is running into some trouble.
Last March the board recommended that the Landmarks Preservation Commission not allow the computer company’s proposed renovation of the two-story building at 136 Fifth Avenue.
The building, built in 1850 as a four-story rowhouse, had its upper two floors destroyed in a fire in 1960; Andrews opened there in 1982. Apple wanted to remove the existing façade and replace it with gray limestone, and also to extend the rooftop.
The main point of contention was the massive illuminated Apple logo that would serve as the sole identifier of the store. Because it would sit in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District, the board was none too happy with the modern, bright design.
So, instead of trying to convince the L.P.C. of the merits of its design over the board’s objections, Apple literally went back to the drawing board and came up with a more subdued design.
Now, instead of a renovation, Apple wants to demolish the existing building and construct a new one. But the board found the company’s plan once again too too.
Board member Harold Mendes called it “brutally modern, and nothing to do with the context of the neighborhood.” Former Board 5 chair Kyle Merker said that Apple’s last design was “very troubling,” and said of the new proposal: “This is a very modern design, and we’re trying to preserve a historic district …. It’s a great-looking building, but it’s in the wrong place.”
Not everyone seems to think the old coffee shop was so in tune with the design of the neighborhood. Bergman said: “It’s a refreshing sight for the block. The coffee shop was an eyesore for so long.”
Apple’s plan is due to go before the L.P.C. on July 26. No word on whether the company will try to convince the commission to sign off on its project without the community board’s backing. Calls for comment from Apple are as of this writing unreturned. A spokesperson in California promised to get back to us, and when they do, we’ll get back to you.
UPDATE: Apple spokesperson Monica Wik finally got back to The Real Estate. Here we reprint her strange message in its entirety:
In researching the store location you point our below [sic], 136 Fifth Ave.. [sic] I see no such plans for a store, as such I consider the location a speculation at this time and therefore cannot comment on speculation and rumor.
Note: As of this posting, the Landmarks commission still has a hearing scheduled to consider the application for an Apple store at 136 Fifth Avenue on July 26. And that rendering, posted above? It’s theirs.
– Matthew Grace