Developer Frank Cretella came before the Historic Preservation Commission Tuesday with two applications needing review, one for a plan to place a nightclub on top of the existing PNC Bank building at Park Avenue and West Second Street, and the other for relocation of the historic Titsworth –Sutphen Pre-Civil War building from the proposed site of a 148-unit apartment development on West Second Street.
The bank proposal was a referral from the city Zoning Board, as the bank is within the North Avenue Historic District. The relocation of the Titsworth-Sutphen building was referred by the Planning Board.
The only thing the HPC can do is to issue a certificate of appropriateness for the proposed action. The other two boards must still vote on the applications.
Preservationist Gail Hunton questioned the scope of work on the bank building and also the addition of a glass awning to the front. Cretella said limestone on the bank will be cleaned and the awning will have internal gutters for rainwater. Hunton requested that the developer bring photos of the bank as it is now when he comes back for final design approval. Commissioners had no initial objections to the plans and approved forwarding them to the Zoning Board, which meets on Sept. 1.
There were several questions raised about relocation of the Titsworth-Sutphen house, which Hunton said was one of very few pre-Civil War buildings still standing. It belonged to a mill owner during the Civil War era, she said. The developer proposed possibly moving it about 250 feet to a city-owned lot at Madison Avenue and West Second Street.
Architect Dennis Devino said the building had to be moved to make way for a five-story building with retail uses on the ground floor and 148 apartments above. If it remained at the site, it would be blocked in by the new construction on West Second Street. If it could not be moved to the city-owned site, there were other possibilities nearby, Cretella said.
“I am personally uncomfortable recommending a relocation without a site established,” Hunton said.
The commission decided to have a subcommittee investigate the current condition of the building, including how it is attached to a more modern addition. The frame house would be lifted off its foundation and placed on a new foundation at the proposed relocation site, Cretella said. But commissioners gave approval to refer the application to the Sept. 2 Planning Board agenda.
Although the HPC could not comment on either of the applications except for the historic aspects, several details emerged in the discussions. The developer plans to change a current one-way driveway onto Park Avenue into a two-way driveway, which will serve parking for 132 vehicles on the block. Cretella already has two other projects on the block, one for four apartments over commercial space and one for eight apartments over space for which he now proposes 10 physical therapy offices on the first floor and in the basement.
In all, Cretella has seven projects in various stages in or near the North Avenue Historic District. He has purchased, through limited liability corporations, the former Mirons warehouse, the former Romonds Jeep building, the old Courier News building on Park Avenue and another that had been an addition to the PNC Bank as well as the former Appliance-Arama warehouse on West Front Street.
The two applications reviewed by the HPC Tuesday were jointly made by the developer and the owner, PNC Bank National Association.