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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

Carter's View

The owners of the Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway, one of the city's greatest skyscraper landmarks, have decided not to convert the top of the tower to residential condominiums.

Randy Gerner of the architectural firm of Gerner Kronick & Valcarcel PC, told yesterday that his firm is now working on plans to convert the top floors back to office space. He said the plan is to make the space as exclusive as space at Lever House or 712 Fifth Avenue and that amenities will include a concierge and a separate lobby.

The building, which also has an address of 2 Park Place, was erected in 1913 for F. W. Woolworth, the owner of the famous 5 & 10 cent store chain. It was designed by Cass Gilbert and was the world's tallest building from 1913 to 1931.

It dominates City Hall Park as can be seen in the photograph at the right and its mosaic-lined lobby is the most glorious in the city.

The building was acquired in 1997 by 233 Broadway Owners LLC of which Steve Witkoff and Ruben Schron are principals and plans were disclosed to convert the top floors to apartments last year. A plan was approved by the Department of Buildings last June 15 for "plumbing work for the proposed conversion of floors 30 through 58 to residential use."

In their great book, "New York 1900, Metropolitan Architecture and Urbanism, 1900-1915," Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and John Massengale described the building as "a masterpiece which culminated the development of the Composite Era skyscraper and anticipated the monuments of the Era of Convenience."

The building, they continued, offered a "convincing demonstration of the aesthetic power and potential urbanistic amenability of the base and tower formula...[and convincingly inhabited its height....The eighty-six-by-eighty-four-foot tower, which set back near the top, rose twenty-six stories above the building's twenty-nine-story base to produce a slightly squat profile that Gilbert's brilliant handling of the vertical ribs did much to help counteract."

"The Woolworth Building was remarkable for its free Gothic silhouette and detail, which elevated a rationally composed structural system to heights of lyricism seldom achieved in a commercial building. Truly a 'Cathedral of Commerce,' as the Reverend S. Parkes Cadman dubbed it, the Woolworth Building set the standard for tall buildings for a generation, and Gilbert's Gothic style - 'Woolworth Gothic,' as it came to be known, replaced the Modern French as the most flexible and symbolically appropriate style for tall buildings....With the completion of the Woolworth Building the twentieth-century character of the Manhattan skyline was firmly established."

The remarkable acceleration upwards of office rents in the city in the last year or so has led several owners to reconsider plans to residentially convert some office buildings such as 200 Fifth Avenue facing Madison Square Park where the owners of the Metropolitan Life Insurance clocktower building are also restudying their conversion plans.
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Additional Info About the Building

Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
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