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(Bloomberg) -- When an investment group headed by developer Alchemy Properties bought the top 30 floors of the Woolworth Tower in 2012 for a reported $68 million, the space, which had formerly been offices, was an empty shell.

After assembling the team over a period of 14 months, the group began construction in 2014, renovating those floors from the inside out. That work is due to be finished at the end of 2017, as workers convert the interior into 33 luxury condominiums.

One of the biggest challenges has been to restore the building’s elaborate, neo-gothic exterior, which features gargoyles, sculptural arches, and the delicate, multi-colored terra cotta tiles that were used to decorate buildings across New York in the early 20th century.

“Theoretically, we could have spent two or three million dollars fixing [the terra cotta],” said Kenneth Horn, the company’s president and founder. “But we’re spending $22 million.” The additional $20 million, Horn said, is going for meticulous restoration (and, in some cases, recreation) of the vivid, tiled decoration, much of which frames every one of the residence’s windows. “I think we’ve put in 3,400 pieces,” Horn said. 

The work isn’t complete yet. Eventually there will be two elevators serving the residences, but for now workers crowd into the Woolworth Tower Residences’ single working lift as they effectively build apartments from scratch in the former commercial space.

The units range from $4.575 million for a 1,294-square-foot one-bedroom to $26.4 million for a floor-through, 5,991-square-foot four-bedroom suite. The one exception is the top apartment, “The Pinnacle,” which will take up seven stories. (Pricing has yet to be released.)


First Look

This week, two apartments on the 38th floor were completed, furnished, and ready for tours.

The first, on sale for $10.175 million, is No. 38A, a three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath apartment with 3,282 square feet overlooking the north, south, and east side of the building’s tower. The second apartment, which occupies the other half of the building’s tower and shares a hallway and elevator access, is residence 38B. It is slightly smaller, with two bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths spread across 2,548 square feet, and is offered at $7.85 million.

“When we began to plan the apartments, the question was: How do you design something that’s true to the Woolworth building but also something that’s entirely modern?” Horn said.

Completed in 1913, the building was commissioned by retail merchant F.W. Woolworth and designed by architect Cass Gilbert, who also designed the U.S. Supreme Court Building, the West Virginia State Capitol, and the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in New York. It was the world’s tallest building until 1930.

The apartments have parquet floors and elaborate moldings and baseboards, but they also have a relatively open floor plan that allows for a seamless integration of the kitchen, formal dining areas, and living rooms.

In the larger, three-bedroom apartment, visitors enter directly into the living area and are treated to views of the East River, 8 Spruce St., the Frank Gehry skyscraper, and the ornamented copper roofs of lower Manhattan. On a recent tour, one of the bedrooms was configured as a two-bedroom with a study. 


Touring the Space

Walk through the apartment and you’ll eventually come to an open kitchen that faces northward; homeowners will be able to prepare food on the marble countertop while appreciating views of the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the Hudson River.

There’s a notable division between the apartment’s public and private spaces, with the latter facing south. (The exception is the master bedroom’s walk-in closet; “I should point out that when I grew up in Brooklyn, my bedroom was not this big,” Horn noted.)

The layout is similar in the smaller apartment, except visitors enter a long hallway and can either go right, toward the living area and open kitchen, or to the left, where two bedrooms anchor the southwest side of the building.

Thanks to that terra cotta, the view from every window appears framed. “It’s a great sense of responsibility that we’re doing this building,” Horn said. “And we know that it’s not just a responsibility to our investors and our team at the office, it’s a responsibility to New York. We have one shot to do this right, and I really believe that we are doing it right.”



To contact the author of this story: James Tarmy in New York at jtarmy@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gaddy at jgaddy@bloomberg.net.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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