The first time Louis Cappelli realized the Common Council was against his firm’s designs was at the Council meeting Tuesday night. All Councilpersons received or were sent a fax that afternoon that could have triggered the Council dumping the designs.
It was just a helpful fax.
Local architect Robert H. Levine (whose name is on the fax as sender), faxed the 2-pager to Mayor Joseph Delfino, Councilpersons Rita Malmud, Benjamin Boykin II, Larry Delgado, Robert Greer, William King and Pauline Oliva. Our source said it arrived Tuesday prior to the evening Common Council hearing on a Special Permit hearing for Louis Cappelli. The hearing was to allow Louis Cappelli to build his two towers at the City Center to 34 stories.
Fax promotes Fred Bland as resource for Cappelli team.
The fax held out a very attractive carrot to a Council under pressure: the opportunity to get Fred Bland from Beyer Blinder Bell to advise on the project, or so they might have reasoned from the document.
Here is a quote from the secret fax obtained by WPCNR:
As you prepare for tonight’s Council meeting, we strongly urge you to review the enclosed Talking Points which conclude by recommending that the Developer augment his professional team by engaging a Design Architect to work with the Schuman Lichtenstein (SL) firm who would continue as Architect of Record.
This arrangement, recognizing specific strengths of various architects, is standard procedure in the field, a natural response to situations similar to ours. SL has often worked as the Architect of Record this way; in fact, several times with Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB). BBB, in turn, has often performed as the Design Architect with others.
Here’s the kicker, as it continues:
BBB’s Fred Bland has indicated today (Tuesday) his willingness to meet to further discuss the matter if the City and the Developer are interested in BBB’s participation in this project.”
The fax went on to raise more “Talking Points” for the council to raise in the Tuesday meeting. The complete text of this mysterious fax undisclosed Tuesday evening is available to read elsewhere on the site.
The fax is type-signed without signatures by “R. Levine” and his two co-signers of the fax, “R. Stackpole,” of the Planning Board and “W.Rose,” of the Urban Renewal Board.
(This raises the possibility that Mr. Rose and Mr. Stackpole did not know their names were on the fax.) Mr. Rose has acknowledged to WPCNR that he and Mr. Levine and Mr.Stackpole had been expressing their concerns to “all” Common Councilmembers for sometime.
Anatomy of a Set-up
Cappelli, meanwhile dismissed an early warning sign.
A source close to the Cappelli organization told WPCNR under condition of anonymity that Mr. Cappelli was contacted on an undisclosed golf course early Tuesday morning September 4 and informed of possible Council retreat on the issue of the tower designs.
It appears that no councilmember talked to Cappelli before the councilmeeting about what they were about to do for him and to him.
The project was going good.
Mr. Cappelli had reason to believe 6 days previously on Wednesday evening, August 29, that the council was on board. The Council indicated they liked the way the designs were going.
Five of the six councilpersons expressed enthusiasm with the designs (with the exception of Rita Malmud who made no public knowledge of how she felt about the project on Wednesday, the 29th).No one spoke up and said, “Lou, this is not working for us. We just don’t feel we’re there.”
Mr. King had even said “we’re getting close,” Mr. Delgado liked what he saw, just wanted to see a two-story glass treatment.
Cappelli thinks he has a consensus.
According to WPCNR’s source, the boss was not worried on the golf course call Tuesday morning. He was reported to react in his usual confident manner, saying he was not that married to the designs, that he would just hire Bland, without the expectation that he would ever have to. He had no idea what was about to hit him Tuesday evening.
The Tuesday Night Surprise
He got his approval for the height, but the Council to a man and woman with the exception of the Mayor, told him literally to go back to the drawing board. They expressed, no demanded, he use Fred Bland on the project.
The council told him this, as far as WPCNR can analyze, based on the fax. The fax had told them Mr. Bland was available.
However, Mr. Bland was not “on board.”
George Gretsas, according to the Beyer Blinder Belle offices Wednesday had been trying to reach Bland most of Tuesday afternoon unsuccessfully. Whether or not Mr. Bland has made a verbal commitment to Mr. Cappelli or Mr. Gretsas Tuesday is not known at this time.
Mr. Bland is very committed this week. He was judging an architectural exhibition in New York Wednesday, Thursday according to his office. Mr. Bland has not, at this time, returned WPCNR’s calls.
There is no indication in the fax that Mr. Bland had criticized Mr. Cappelli’s designs to Mr. Levine, and Mr. Levine, contacted by WPCNR has already told us he will not comment on any phase of this matter.
We have no way of telling what Mr. Bland actually told Mr. Levine, whether he saw the designs, and it would be irresponsible to speculate.
First sign of trouble
WPCNR first learned that Mr. Bland had apparently seen Cappelli’s tower designs when Robert Greer, a backer of the project, troubled and concerned, told us Tuesday morning that Mr. Bland had criticized the designs.
Greer revealed three architects were going to present their feelings about the quality of Cappelli’s Tower architecture to the Common Council. He did not say when or how the architects would make their feelings known.
WPCNR assumed Greer meant the meeting Tuesday night. But, did it actually occur Tuesday afternoon through the medium of the “Secret Fax,” no longer secret?
Common Councilmembers we have contacted and asked if they received any input from architects did not mention receiving any except Mrs. Malmud. She named Mr. Rose, Mr. Levine and a third architect, as three who had talked with her about the designs after the Council meeting on Tuesday evening. (The third architect was not Mr. Stackpole).
You know the rest.
Cappelli was into damage control at Tuesday’s Council hearing saying “he’d become aware” that there was council dissatisfaction with the designs and that he was willing to hire Fred Bland to bring him on board as the design architect with Schuman Lichtenstein as the drawings architectural firm.
We saw a composed Cappelli, numb after approval by a 6-1 vote of the height, brushing politely past congratulations, his eyes steely and searching, troubled, slightly uncertain, focused on an uncertain future.
This is not just WPCNR’s impression. Witnesses described Cappelli as being “floored” by the Council demand to redesign, “absolutely floored.”
The Mayor’s office had no statement to issue by the end of the day Wednesday on the search for Fred Bland. A somber Paul Wood reported that it was out of the Mayor’s Office control now because Bland would be working for Cappelli, not the Council, if Cappelli succeeds in hiring him.