Demolition Likely for Provident Loan Society Building on East Houston; New Development on the Horizon

Posted on: January 26th, 2015 at 5:10 am by
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It’s truly unfortunate when you discover that a particular architectural treasure is not officially landmarked and is then demolished for luxury living. This trend is endemic of the Lower East Side lately, its very character endangered. And we’re probably losing another. The latest victim of the onslaught is allegedly the Provident Loan Society building at the southwest corner of East Houston and Essex Streets. Soon to be razed for a new development. Guess that Davey Drill we spotted digging onsite three years ago was but the beginning…

Grab a seat, we’ll explain.

Back in August, landlord of the adjacent five-story tenement that houses Mercury Lounge sold their air rights to the owners of 223-225 East Houston. Public records show that Elsa and Dunnie Lai (Houston Essex Realty Corp.) acquired the approximately 9,238 square-feet of “excess development” rights for $2.25 million, which also grants an easement to potentially cantilever over the iconic rock venue.

A tipster tells us that the plan here – still unconfirmed – is to demolish the Provident Loan Society branch and erect a ten-story building. At least. Current zoning actually allows for a maximum height of twelve stories, with the inclusionary housing bonus. Nothing stands in the way, since, for some reason, this building never received landmark designation from the city.

However, for the time being, there are no permits yet on file with the Department of Buildings for either the demolition or construction.

The Provident Loan Society, for which the building was erected, 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 branch at 223 East Houston – built in the Classical Revival-style – dates back to 1912. 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. Plus, artist Jasper Johns once dwelled and worked here.

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