Frederick Bland of Beyer Blinder Belle presented his first pencil sketches of how the City Center residential apartment towers should look Monday, and impressed Council and City Boards favorably. Bland totally rejected Cappelli’s previous designs for “not telling a story.”
Plea for Thursday approval.
At the opening of the Monday morning meeting, Louis Cappelli said because of the severe uncertainty of the financial markets, closing on the financing with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce was “the most important piece of the project.”
The developer said, “getting an approval (Thursday) I would be able to finance the building.” He hoped the Council would “give an approval based on direction (of the design). I have no problems, subsequent to that approval to come back on an architectural level. He (Bland) is going to have to have feedback on the design today.”
Financing still a “go,” as of Monday morning
Cappelli, holding court with news reporters on the City Hall Mezzanine awaiting Bland’s arrival said he was assured by his contact at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce that even after the Trade Center attack last week, CIBC was still on track to finance the City Center project.
Delgado: approval likely
It appears the Common Council seing the rough sketches Frederick Bland presented, is ready to give that amended site plan approval. Larry Delgado, Councilman, commented after the meeting, he felt approval was certain Thursday. His comment, asked by Alex Philippidis of Westchester County Business Journal if the votes were there for approval, was “Oh yes,” with a nod of his head.
BLAND HOLDS THEM IN THE PALM OF HIS HAND: Frederick Bland of Beyer, Blinder, Belle entrances the Common Council and city boards with his new design for the Cappelli City Center Residential towers. WPCNR PHOTO
The Common Council, Planning Board, Design Review Board, Conservation Board and Urban Renewal Agency were hold spellbound on Frederick Bland as he unveiled his first pencil sketches of his vision for the Cappelli City Center residential towers.
Bland presented the evolution of his concept in three basic pencil sketches.
Nevertheless, the rapt audience liked what they saw.
The city’s recent severe critics of the Cappelli triumphal towers designs last week expressed outright support for the new Bland concept.
THE HANGING GARDENS OF BLAND: Bland’s new design for each of the 34-story towers which will face each other on opposite corners of ertswhile EJ Conroy Drive. It consists of custom penthouses at the top left tower, double-floored glass window treatments shooting down the vertical tower and elaborate stepbacks for recreational space, with possible wraparound windows on the cornices.
The Common Council rejected original Cappelli designs September 4, after 5 weeks of design development by Cappelli’s team in a direction the Council had indicated the project should follow. The late objections to Cappelli’s designs were raised when council members were secretly informed by fax prior to that September 4 meeting by Robert Levine and William Rose (of the Urban Renewal Agency) and Robert Stackpole (of the Planning Board) that Bland was willing to try his hand at designing the towers.
Critics won over quickly
William Rose of the Design Review Board and Rita Malmud liked Bland’s design Monday. Robert Greer, Larry Delgado, and Benjamin Boykin II weighed in with favorable reviews of Bland’s dramatic, stepped tower with segmented horizontal and vertical glass treatments, hanging gardens, and as-yet-to-be-designed crown.
VIEW FROM CITY HALL OF THE HANGING GARDENS OF BLAND, showing the stepbacks envisioned by Bland. He sees building telling a story, and providing many custom designed apartments making for higher rentals.WPCNR PHOTO
The drawings specified neither materials combinations nor design combinations in detailed form. William King was the lone Councilman who said there were many good things he liked about Cappelli’s design and cautioned Bland “not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.” The Mayor had no comment.
Eight more weeks of design needed, Bland says.
Bland said he and his firm needed about eight more weeks to complete the single design. He said, with Louis Cappelli’s permission, he would be pleased to incorporate the concerns and suggestions of all of the persons on the assembled Boards coming back at regular intervals to do presentations. Cappelli, smiling thinly but congenially, said he was fine with that, and after the meeting that broke at 11 AM, said, “I’m Mr. Flexible, today.”
Praise from the critics
John Garment, another critic of the Cappelli originals, and of the Planning Board, said he liked the new direction first: “This is a very positive step. It is beginning to look like a promising building we can be proud of in the City of White Plains. The penthouse is definitely vertical, and I would bring it down all the way. The step-ups from the street maximize the bulk of the building.”
Rose said, “I echo John’s comment. It will be interesting to see the next generation interpreting the role of construction choices.”
Allan Briscoe of the Design Review Board observed, “This is a remarkable job of bringing down the height. Very muting of elevation. I think of these as definite pluses. One plus one (facing each other) makes an overall statement that is more powerful and more compelling.”
Robert Levine, an observer, expressed desire that Bland take over designing the overall look of the project on all four sides in addition to the residential: “We’re thinking what’s next…The exterior retail options will be the best they can be if they have your imprint.”
However, Bland said he was not designing any of the exterior retail components of the project, and that he was working with the architect handling that, Ken Narva of Streetworks.
(Robert Levine is not on any of the boards reviewing the project, but appeared to influence Mr. Rose of the Urban Renewal Agency in protesting Cappelli’s original designs September 4. He is the man whose influence induced Bland to offer his services to design the project.)
Around the Horn
Rita Malmud, who told WPCNR September 4, she would know a great design when she saw it, said, “I think your idea for a different shape is a very positive direction. Shape and spin of the buildings are of extreme importance. Use of double windows, and steps, I think that is very good. It is good they lean (face) towards each other. I agree with the center shift (moving the tower to the left side of the apartment building), rather than the tower going straight down to the retailers.”
Malmud is still concerned about the design of the top, which Bland has not decided upon as of yet.
Robert Greer said, “The combination of vertical and levels makes the building(s) look less massive. The vertical (tower) could be different colors.”
FROM THE FRED BLAND SKETCH BOOK: Actual sketch of the Hanging Gardens of Bland that shows how one set of windows serves 2 floors. Note penthouse pinnacle at top where custom luxury suites are envisioned. Colors appearing are not suggested and are a result of retouching for display purposes only.WPCNR PHOTO
William King demurred to praise as much, saying, “I don’t think the buildings need to be redone. I don’t like white-gray (Bland’s suggested color combination).” King asked Bland, “Are you aware of Mr. Cappelli’s later designs?”
Bland said he had only seen the first set of designs Cappelli had originally done. King expressed Bland should look at the latest ones because “We shouldn’t be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”
THE CAPPELLI TOWER DESIGN NOW HISTORY: The most favored Cappeli Tower design that the Common Council rejected September 4. WPCNR PHOTO
Pauline Oliva, weighing in, said, “You’ve been more sensitive to some of our city architecture, the Westchester Arts Council Building, City Hall, and the Greenpoint Bank Building. I feel it blends in.”
Larry Delgado observed, “We’re going in the right direction,” but worried whether the new design would “stand the test of time.” Mr. Bland said he could not guarantee that.
Benjamin Boykin II, wrapped up comments of the Council by reporting, “You’ve done a wonderful job on two things, redesigning the aesthetics of the building and making it look smaller.”
He also worried about the materials, and whether Cappelli would restrain Bland in any way on costs.
Cappelli opens checkbook again.
Cappelli smiling magnanimously said, “Fred has a free hand. I’m not restraining him in any way.”
Cappelli then renewed his pleas issued in his opening monologue at 8:15 AM: “Just the last thing I want is to get an approval and not to get my financing. Find us a way to achieve a great building, but give us a way to get financing on the project (next week).”
Breaking for comments
Susan Habel wrapped up the proceedings by advising the Council they could vote to approve the amended site plan Thursday evening as scheduled, and retain architectural control of the residential towers by granting what she called “an approval with conditions.”
Then the boards met separately in various chambers of City Hall to marshal their comments on the designs to offer a consensus of whether the design Bland presented was acceptable.
Late Monday afternoon, WPCNR has learned that the boards had returned a favorable enough response to proceed with the Thursday meeting. The Mayor’s office refused to comment on what they called “procedural issues.”
The procedure of how various Boards’ commentaries are going to be integrated in relation to the amended site plan for Council approval Thursday evening has not been reported yet by the Mayor’s office.
Bland said he had had only about three days to do the designs, and Cappelli said that he had worked with Bland in his home Friday in working on the new design.
The Council vote on the amended site plan approval for the City Center project is to be held Thursday evening at 7:30 PM.