The iconic bookstore The Strand, of the few family businesses that planted face to the disruption of the digital economy, it faces a dilemma. The building where the late Fred Bass became big business, located at the junction of Broadway and 12th street, has just been proposed for its preservation. But this recognition can be forced to close, because the costs and the bureaucracy will eat a few margins that are already very narrow, just when they need to be more competitive.


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Bass died in February, at 89 years of age. What his father Benjamin started as a business to sell second-hand books in 1927, a year before he was born, became a gigantic store in Union Square, where you can find 2.5 million volumes. If you put all in a row, would that covers a distance of 30 kilometres. It was he who became The Strand in the whole of a cultural institution.

Fred was obsessed with books, as with customers every day on their pilgrimage to the local to get lost among the shelves while exploring searching for treasures as Letters to Vera, of Vladimir Nabakov. It was one of the favorite titles of the Bass. His dream, he said, was to manage a large book store. And he got it. Now you want to give a special distinction to the building that welcomes you.

All in the city of skyscrapers generates discussion, and more when it comes to real estate issues. For some, the preservation of a building is a special recognition that honors his contribution to the history of the great metropolis. For others, it is a drag. It is what you think Nancy Bass Wyden, the heiress of The Strand. That statement, he says, “will destroy a piece of history of the city.” The structure to which The Strand calls his house was built in 1902. It is one of the seven buildings below 14th street that are under review, including one designed by William Birkmire. To preserve it is to recognize its architectural significance. But that status also imposes restrictions to keep it. The recognition, explains Bass, “it’s going to cost a lot more.”

Strand Bookstore moved in 1957 to the building at 826 Broadway. Was rental until it was purchased for us $ 8.2 million Aresbet in 1997. The shop and offices occupy five of the eleven plants. The rest is rented to other businesses. The property is valued now at about 31 million. The family ensures that the building is not at risk. The opposition front of the owner is supported by clients that you adore.

The decision to preserve the building from The Strand to the triggered the construction of a complex in Union Square that will host a technology center. Added the announcement of the arrival of Amazon to Long Island City in Queens. The neighbors fear for their impact on the character of the neighborhoods. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation asked for that to protect 193 buildings. The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), the Commission for the Preservation of Historical Monuments of New York) considers that only seven deserve the designation.

Bass ensures that could earn you much more money by renting the space occupied by the store. But he makes it clear that you are not interested in the money and that he wants to someday pass the business to his sons, the fourth generation. “Please,” he pleaded during the hearing held this week, “do not destroy Strand by adding more bureaucracy, unnecessary costs and restrictions that we will slow down”. “Unlike Amazon”, he added, “we do not ask for subsidies or special treatment”.

Edward Sutton, the manager of the company, pointed out during the first view to change the lights, signs, access, or any component of the outside or inside of the building is required to meet a series of regulations cumbersome. “We simply cannot afford additional costs,” he reiterated, “we respect the work of preservation that do, but we are concerned about the result that you can have.”

The commission heard and granted more time to respond to your fears in a second view, “we will work with the owners to ensure that the cultural institution will endure”. The LPC explains that regulates thousands of commercial buildings such as the one that has The Strand in the property. “We are sympathetic and respond to their needs,” they say, trying to reduce the tension of the debate.