Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Pieces of New York History for Sale as Homes in Woolworth Building

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Pieces of New York History for Sale as Homes in Woolworth Building

Article excerpt

The Woolworth Building's neo-Gothic tower is about to be turned into luxury condominiums.

The Woolworth Building's neo-Gothic tower, one of New York City's most recognizable landmarks, is about to be turned into luxury condominiums, a transformation that would be second only to placing penthouses atop the Chrysler Building or the Empire State Building.

The world's tallest building when it opened in 1913, the Woolworth Building was called the "Cathedral of Commerce," its copper-domed tower soaring 792 feet, or 241 meters, into the skyline. Now, in a $68 million deal made final last week, the tower will be turned into about 40 luxury apartments, including a five- level penthouse in the cupola.

In a condominium market still recovering from the Lehman Brothers crash in 2008, some developers have focused on conversions as a way to create new luxury apartments that cater to an eager, astronomically wealthy clientele who in the past few months have spent tens of millions of dollars on sumptuous apartments. With its historic status, the Woolworth Building has the cachet to give it an edge over its competitors.

An investment group led by Alchemy Properties, a New York developer, bought the top 30 floors of the landmark July 31 from the Witkoff Group and Cammeby's International, which will continue to own the lower 28 floors and lease them as office space. "It's very exciting for us," said Kenneth S. Horn, president of Alchemy Properties. "We've done a lot of historic buildings in the city, but this is 'the mama,' as they say."

The agreement promises to reinvent the tower at 233 Broadway, between Park Place and Barclay Street, as one of New York City's most sought-after addresses, adding yet another chapter to the history of this monument to Frank W. Woolworth and his retail empire designed by Cass Gilbert.

The apartments will begin at 350 feet above ground level, offering panoramic views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Boroughs and New Jersey. The condos, with ceiling heights of 11 to 14 feet, are expected to be completed by 2015.

The crowning penthouse will be among the highest-altitude residences in the city, soaring above 700 feet.

An abandoned 55-foot-long basement swimming pool, originally part of a health club, will be restored as an amenity for residents. A new entrance on Park Place will serve residents with an elevator bank separate from that used by the office tenants on the lower floors.

"Not many people in the world would get to say they live in the Woolworth Building -- one of the city's most recognizable buildings," said Andrew Gerringer, an executive for Marketing Directors, a New York development, leasing and marketing company. "I think they're coming on the market at the right time to do this."

The trick to a successful conversion, he said, will be designing the large apartments the luxury market prefers, despite the constraints imposed by the building's infrastructure. …

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