Permits Filed for 12-Story Tumor Atop Provident Loan Society Building East Houston Street

Posted on: November 30th, 2015 at 4:45 am by

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November 2015

Here it comes. The Provident Loan Society building on East Houston Street is one step closer to sprouting a twelve-story (120-foot) tumor.

Owners Elsa and Dunnie Lai together filed paperwork for the $15 million project with the Department of Buildings ten days ago. As previously reported, plans call for a 41,000 square-foot transformation of the un-protected Provident Loan Society branch at 223-225 East Houston. Cutting to the chase, that equates to 38 apartments plus several recreational terraces and fitness rooms for tenants (34,200 square-feet). There is also bicycle storage with twelve spaces and commercial retail, presumably on the ground floor (6,800 square-feet).

Last month, we first revealed the potential eyesore to erupt from 223-225 East Houston. An ugly corner-hogger, at best. However, the renderings revealed probably won’t reflect the final product. The company believed to be the architect at the helm is now denying involvement. Bluarch principal Antonio Di Oronzo previously told DNAinfo that the firm is no longer working with the property owners. Not since last December, at least.

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An obsolete rendering of the Provident Loan addition, Photo: Bluarch Architecture

Indeed, the “pre-filed” permits now indicate the architect of record as Rogers Partners Architects.

Meanwhile, there is also a simultaneous campaign afoot to landmark the building, though the timing is certainly unfortunate. We’ve known that something bad was gonna happen here ever since last January, when we broke news that the Lais had purchased 9,238 square-feet of air rights from the Mercury Lounge property. Nearly a year later, and without much preservationist activity, a landmarks crusader named Christian Emanuel started a petition to rally support for official preservation. Thus far, 200 signatures were collected, with a goal of 500.

The proposal will appear before CB3’s landmarks subcommittee this month for local support after withdrawal last month. Yet, in retrospect, the October agenda removal does seem somewhat suspicious. A cynic might assert that the hiatus afforded additional time for these plans to be filed with DOB.

The Provident Loan Society, for which the Classical Revival-style building was erected in 1912, is a non-profit organization born in response to the financial panic of 1893. Its founders included group of prominent New Yorkers, including J.P. Morgan and Cornelius Vanderbilt. Their specialty was providing short-term loans at a lower rate than loan sharks. It’s still around today.

The bank operated this branch at 255 East Houston for decades but divested in 1966. A year later, abstract artist Jasper Johns acquired the property; the space served as both dwelling and studio. He eventually sold the building in 1988, according to public records. In the last twenty-some-odd years, though, the corner hulk became synonymous with nightlife. Element was the most recent; and a Blackout Haunted House for Halloween. The former financial center was also home to the Manhattan Gentlemen’s Club (strip club), a goth nightclub known as Chaos, and The Bank.

Landmarking the neighborhood gem will be an uphill battle, for sure. It always is in this town.

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