As far as ambassadors of the built environment go, Capitol West couldn't offer a worse welcome to the city.
Long unused except as a target for vandals, this multistory office building at 1-7 Myrtle St. looms alongside the Asylum Avenue exit of I-84. Its vertical brick panels are unremarkable and broken only by two enormous plate-glass windows jury-rigged into a corner hard along the highway. The glass is broken, and the walls behind them are sprayed with arcane messages. Because the highway takes a sharp turn just there, it's easy to feel you're going to sail right through the broken windows into the building's hulking frame.
Now for the good news: The building's taxes are current, and according to James Vance, the architect hired to remake Capitol West into 97 living units with an on-site health club, there's been much progress recently. Contractors have abated the hazardous materials and have nearly finished the internal demolition. The architectural renderings are ready and waiting, and the city has granted all necessary clearances and permits for development, including approval by the Design Review Board.
Let's hope things continue to go smoothly. The developer, Joshua Guttman of Lawrence, N.Y., has been called "controversial" by commentators ranging from local bloggers to The New York Times. The New York Sun reported recently he was cited with "thousands of violations" with the Department of Buildings.
Guttman owns the 14-acre Greenpoint Terminal Market in Brooklyn, whose value skyrocketed last year when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg changed the zoning from commercial to residential on nearly 200 Brooklyn waterfront blocks. Several preservationist groups, including the Municipal Art Society and the Society of Industrial Archaeology, were trying to protect the Civil War-era Greenpoint market through historic designation when a 10-alarm blaze leveled it on May 2. New York fire inspectors say that after the 9/11 attacks, it was the largest fire in New York in a decade.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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