The Common Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to permit Louis Cappelli to build his City Center towers to heights of 34 stories with a catch. It demanded Cappelli totally redesign his two towers in 16 days, dismissing the prototypes they’d been looking at for 2 weeks.
As reported by WPCNR Tuesday afternoon, the City Center was in trouble: the tower designs were not going to fly.
The Common Counci appears to have been swayed by private input from at least three prominent local architects told to at least one councilperson. The Council is disenchanted with Mr. Cappelli’s submitted designs for the two 34-story residential apartment buildings. The council voted 6-1 (with Pauline Oliva voting against the 34-story height), to approve the Towers of Cappelli, but the designs went out the window.
Council waffles on appearance of buildings
Pauline Oliva, Rita Malmud, Benjamin Boykin, Robert Greer, Larry Delgado and William King all strongly expressed desires for a grander set of towers, completely dismissing the two buildings that they, with the exception of Mrs. Malmud, had lead Mr. Cappelli to believe they liked a scant 6 days ago.
For once Mr. Cappelli had no answer. He appeared shaken. Though he expressed knowledge that he was aware of an undercurrent of concern about the design, he appeared to have been taken by surprise. Otherwise, why had not Fred Bland already been contacted earlier Tuesday, this reporter mused.
”Get Me Fred Bland and Make it Snappy!”
Cappelli says he needs site plan approval (which by definition includes an approved project design), by September 25 when he expects to close on his $375 million in financing with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The beleaguered builder doggedly pledged round-the-clock designing.
He said he would immediately hire Fred Bland, Partner of Beyer, Blinder, Belle, the architectural firm that had convinced the Council that the 34-story height was acceptable, to work with his architects, to work 24 hours a day, if necessary for 16 days to get a design acceptable to the Council’s aesthetics. Cappelli said that since the Council had confidence in Bland, he felt he would be a good choice to start the design process over.
Cappelli told WPCNR he had no idea of Mr. Bland’s whereabouts, or whether he was even available to design personally. He had not yet been in touch with the architect, but he said wryly he’d send people out to find him, if Bland could not be reached Wednesday morning.
All was not well as late as the end of last week
WPCNR first learned of the architectural reservations about the buildings Tuesday morning after Robert Greer’s Campaign for Mayor Kickoff News Conference. Greer told WPCNR the council was having major problems with the design,even indicated that Fred Bland himself, had expressed “disappointment” with Cappelli Enterprises design effort on the building. In fairness to Mr. Bland, this is what Mr. Greer said, and we have not gotten Mr. Bland’s version.
After the Common Council voted the approval of the height issue, Greer confirmed again late Tuesday evening that some architects had been in conversation with some councilpersons about the design issue, and he knew the designs were “in trouble” at the end of last week. He would not say what councilpersons were in touch with carping architects. So WPCNR asked.
Larry Delgado and Benjamin Boykin both said they had not heard or been influenced by any architects regarding the design. We did not have the opportunity to ask Mr. King and Ms. Oliva.
“Attackchitects” catch Malmud’s ear.
Mrs. Malmud, who in casting her vote for the 34-story height, called the two Cappelli designs “towers of mediocrity,” told us she had heard from three architects on the design of the project. She named two architects and a third prominent name architect, extremely well-known in White Plains project circles.
WPCNR feels would be inappropriate to identify all three at this time, though we do know their names and they were named by Ms. Malmud “on the record.” The high profile architect had talked with her about the merits of the Cappelli designs at the Stop N Shop groundbreaking last week. Mrs. Malmud would not say what he actually did say, but indicated he was not enthusiastic.
We asked Mrs. Malmud why she felt the Cappelli designs were “towers of mediocrity.” She said they were “nothing, they were generic, undistinguished. (They) had nothing to recommend them as architecture.”
Asked if Mr. Bland accepted the Cappelli commission to make a last minute save, what her recommendations would be to him, the Council President said “I want to see great architecture. I’d want it to be so special. If he (Bland) were here I would say I want a building that would be distinguished, elegant. It should be soaring. I’m not trying to turn words into architecture, but Mr. Cappelli is an engineer, he’s not an architect. I don’t mean that against Mr. Cappelli personally.”
WPCNR asked why Mrs. Malmud had not expressed her reservations at the final three Cappelli designs at last Wednesday’s work session when Cappelli had presented the very same buildings that were dismissed last night, Ms. Malmud said, “At that point I had given up. (The designs) seemed acceptable to them (the rest of the council).”
Asked when Mrs. Malmud had first known she did not like designs, she told WPCNR, “As soon as I saw them.”
Asked what she was looking for in building increments, Ms. Malmud said “I’ll know it when I see it.”
National Amusements is “in.”
The hearing preceding the approval of the 34 story tower heights, featured an announcement by Mr. Cappelli that he had received a signed contract from National Amusements for a 20-year lease for 15 theaters in the City Center project at 6:30 PM Tuesday evening.
Mr. Cappelli celebrated this by giving a wrapped gift to the Mayor, which when the Mayor opened it on television, was discovered to contain popcorn. Cappelli joked that the gift was a reference to the Mayor’s saying he hoped to be enjoying popcorn at the City Center downtown at the movies in two years.
Then a procession of persons from businesses, neighborhoods, apartments in the downtown, and just every day citizens came up to the Common Council Pulpit to support strongly and eloquently the City Center project. Only one speaker recommended rejection of the height. Only one person speaking expressed criticism of the designs.
Council Sends Cappelli Back to the Drawing Board
Louis Cappelli after receiving his 6-1 approval vote from the council in favor of the height, looked like a man who had been kicked in the stomach after he left the Council Chambers at 11:30 PM, the hour when the council approved the endlessly debated height question.
When another warrior in the approval wars, William Null said “congratulations” to Mr. Cappelli, he appeared not even to hear it. It was a Pyrrhic Victory.
His work was just beginning and it was no longer “his” project. It was Fred Bland’s — if Mr. Bland wants it.