September 3, 2015
The gracious library, just one of 250 West Street’s public spaces
|Bath works fit for a queen|
Enter through the stately wrought-iron gate and you’re in a massive hallway that’s 17 feet wide with 12-foot ceilings. The size and scope of this neo-Renaissance brick structure recall its industrial heritage, when the building housed confectionary, paper box, and glassware companies, among many others. It’s like traveling back in time—yet a 24-hour concierge desk, which stands sentry in front of a two-level window wall looking onto a 61-foot indoor pool, offers an unmistakable reminder that it’s no longer 1906.
250 West Street is a new luxury development on the western edge of Tribeca and the latest to meld the historic with the contemporary by turning a weathered landmark building into a cutting-edge living space. El-Ad Group, the developer behind this transformation, recognized the building’s potential the moment the 11-story warehouse hit the market in July 2011 after a month-long renovation. “We were looking for a building of this type on the water for a long time,” explains executive vice president of sales and marketing Thomas Elliott. “It just has that sense of gravity that New Yorkers are drawn to. It resonates on a gut level, and that’s something that’s missing in new construction.”
A Tribeca Turnaround
In a way, turning this relic of industrial New York into high-end luxury condominiums is an example of the neighborhood coming full circle. According to historian Oliver E. Allen, the author of Tales of Old Tribeca and a longtime columnist for the Tribeca Trib newspaper, the Tribeca of the early 19th century was a residential area brimming with brick Federal-style homes and the well-to-do clamoring to live along Hudson Square.
Decades later, industry finally caught wind of this strategic location just off the Hudson River, and although its takeover caused the residential population to dwindle to as low as 2,000, it also helps explain the beautiful buildings like 250 West Street. “These were not built like a factory out in the middle of nowhere,” says Allen. “Because they were in the middle of the city, the businesses wanted to put up a good-looking building. They were very ambitious and proud.”
Of course, economic considerations and the difficult nature of navigating the streets of Tribeca eventually put an end to industrial New York—and put stately structures like 250 West Street in limbo until a developer like El-Ad could come along to repurpose them. But turning a gritty urban building into high-end apartments is a challenge in a historic district where just replacing the shutters requires a considerable amount of paperwork. “The landmark rules say you can’t do anything to the outside of the buildings,” notes Allen. “It has to stay exactly how it is. But you should see what they have inside!”
Modern amenities harmonize with the industrial space
|Can’t touch this: the historic facade|
A Modern Take on Tradition
Elliott and his team maintained the building’s massive dimensions, keeping the 20-inch-thick brick walls while filling the structure with 21st-century amenities. And since the giant warehouse takes up a full block, El-Ad had an uncommon amount of space to create unparalleled common areas, plus features such as a state-of-theart fitness center, yoga studio, private library lounge, children’s play area, and enormous roof deck.
El-Ad is also adding a new open courtyard in the middle of the building. “It obviously cost us floor area,” says Elliott. “We can’t recoup that, but it makes the existing space better.”
El-Ad worked with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) through every step of planning for the conversion, restoring classic arched windows and entryways, installing period gates, and best of all, replacing an aluminum band ringing the top of the building with a historic cornice.
While it’s difficult to rehabilitate any building to such exacting standards, Mark Silberman, general counsel at the LPC, can attest to the effectiveness of the process. “In terms of architectural features, the end result is a highly restored building that will be maintained to the highest standards perpetually,” he explains.
Thanks to the refurbishment of landmark buildings like 250 West Street, Tribeca has followed in the footsteps of the West Village (and its new constructions, like the Perry Street Towers and Superior Ink) by luring buyers from uptown. Although these upscale buyers are drawn to the romance of loft living, they’re not looking to play starving artist. In today’s luxury market, drafty windows have given way to Bosch appliances, six-foot Catalina soaking tubs, and home automation systems that draw the blinds with the push of a button.
With work on the building’s 106 units nearly complete, El-Ad Group will have to find a new historic structure to save—no easy task since these diamonds in the rough are dwindling in number. “I’m out looking at buildings all day and all night, and there are just not that many left,” says Elliott. “It’s getting harder and harder. I know it sounds like a cliché, but you just can’t build it like that anymore.” 212-343-2509
photographs courtesy of 250 west street