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Thread: The Windermere - 400-406 West 57th Street at Ninth Avenue - by Theophilus G. Smith

  1. #181

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  2. #182
    Senior Swanky Peteynyc1's Avatar
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    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/...48151639659722
    After Ups and Downs, Windermere on Mend


    The 1881 Queen Anne-Style Landmark Is Slated to Become a Hotel

    By Lana Bortolot


    Updated Dec. 9, 2013 10:58 p.m. ET
    Enlarge Image


    The landmark Windermere at 57th Street and Ninth Avenue is slated to become a boutique hotel after a renovation. Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal




    The Windermere on West 57th street, once one of the city's pioneering apartment houses but long an empty ruin, is on its way to becoming a boutique hotel.
    The Landmarks Preservation Commission has given the go-ahead for the Windermere to seek a zoning waiver for the eight-story building, which would allow the addition of a rooftop structure as well as historically accurate storefront windows and affordable housing units.
    "The proper permitting process just recently begun, but all the signs are pointing to going ahead," said Mark Tress, who acquired the building in 2009 for $13 million.
    The project still needs further reviews and approvals that may take up a year to complete. But that is a short detour on what's been a long and troubled road for the building, the second-oldest apartment house in Manhattan.
    Commanding the southwest corner of 57th Street and Ninth Avenue, the 1881 Queen Anne-style landmark is a complex of three tenements that in its early years was used as apartments for mostly professional women. Through the decades, it became progressively run down, turning into a pigeon- and rodent-infested hovel for a remaining seven tenants who were evicted in 2007. At various times the building housed families, a flourishing creative community, prostitutes, pensioners and actor Steve McQueen.
    The luxury class had yet to come to the West Side in the early 1880s, but the Windermere mimicked a rich lifestyle for its middle-class residents with its harmonious ornamented facade wrapping the corner. The 39 apartments boasted between seven and nine rooms, and the latest technology of the times: hydraulic elevators and telephones.
    Enlarge Image


    The building in a 1940s view with the shadow of the Ninth Avenue elevated tracks. New York City Municipal Archives




    "It was an antecedent to later buildings in the 20th century," said Alex Herrera, technical director at the New York Landmarks Conservancy, a nonprofit preservation organization that has championed the Windermere's rescue.
    As people migrated to those more fashionable buildings, the Windermere was marketed as a destination for the "New Woman." By the late 1890s, working women comprised nearly 80% of its 200 residents.
    Over the years, the building's composition increasingly reflected life on the streets around Hell's Kitchen. The grand apartments were subdivided and the building became an SRO, or single-room occupancy residence for artists, musicians and people on the skids.
    By the 1980s, the building was half-occupied and those remaining were subject of a well-documented harassment campaign, which ended in convictions against the building management and owner in 1985.
    The building changed hands, and yet, remained neglected, even after its 2005 landmark designation. The last tenants were evacuated in 2007 after the fire department found the conditions unsafe. The landmarks commission initiated a "demolition by neglect" suit, forcing the then owner to pay $1.1 million in civil penalties. In 2009, the building was sold to Mr. Tress.
    "It's been an amazing turn around—here's a landmark on the precipice of collapse and now on the cusp of resurrection, said John Weiss, a landmarks commission attorney. "It's quite dramatic."
    The rehabilitated building will have 175 hotel rooms, an interior courtyard and 1,500 square feet on the ground level devoted to retail space.
    If approved, the rooftop will support a 3,000-square-foot restaurant, set back 25 feet from the cornices and not visible from the street, a concession made after the commission and Community Board 4 reviewed initial plans.
    To compensate for past tenant harassment, the plan provide 20 affordable housing units equaling 28% of the floor area.
    "For the most part it's a home run," said Robert J. Benfatto, district manager of the community board.
    Design details are in the works, said Morris Adjmi, architect for the Windermere's renovation. Because the building interior was so badly damaged by multiple fires over the decades, and the floors have all but crumbled, he said they're starting from scratch on the interior.
    "We've been really focusing on the cure and restoration work," Mr. Adjmi said. "It's been really setting everything up so that we can now have discussions about what the hotel looks like." The architectural team can continue stabilization work while waiting for permits.
    Mr. Tress is in contract to purchase another long-abandoned landmark, the 1886 68th Police Precinct and Stable in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
    Peg Breen, president of the landmarks conservancy, said both of the buildings reflect the potential of reusing historic buildings.
    "Developers look at them because they're going to get a product that doesn't look like everything else today and they can make money," she said. "It's good for business and it's good for the city."

  3. #183

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    Any news on this?

  4. #184

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    I walked by the site a few days ago and there were a few people on the scaffolding on the upper floors swinging hammers and stuff. It seems like every few months there will be a 3-4 guys working on the exterior for a few days and then nothing for a few more months.

    I guess this is directed toward people who know better, but could this pattern be because to keep certain permits active, they need to do a minimum amount of work?

  5. #185

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    Quote Originally Posted by Czervik.Construction View Post

    I guess this is directed toward people who know better, but could this pattern be because to keep certain permits active, they need to do a minimum amount of work?
    There is no getting to answer that question; there are any number of factors that could be holding up progress in the redevelopment of this building. One thing for sure is that this prime corner of 57th street has had this 'blight' sitting there for literally decades: and it really is detrimental to the quality of life (and property rents/values) in that immediate area. I like that particular intersection on 57th street and I think everyone would have been better served by 'not landmarking' this one: demo and replace was the way to go. IMHO

  6. #186

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    I think everyone would have been better served by 'not landmarking' this one: demo and replace was the way to go. IMHO
    how shortsighted...would be better if this was simply restored, plus if they tore it down it's replacement could not (due to zoning) even be as big.
    It's only sat there blighted for so long due to a lazy/skeezy owner.

  7. #187

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    Quote Originally Posted by infoshare View Post
    I like that particular intersection on 57th street and I think everyone would have been better served by 'not landmarking' this one: demo and replace was the way to go. IMHO
    Um. Wrong.

  8. #188
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    Look at its ugly and depressing looking modern neighbors. Thanks but no thanks to "demo and replace."

  9. #189

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    My point is that this building, despite being truly landmark worthy, is now still sitting fallow many years after the previous owner 'finally' agreed to sell it for development. My impression is that the attempt to preserve this aging and obsolete structure has become an engineering/construction boondoggle - thus, some 5 years after the purchase they are still stalled on the construction.

    The turn-around time for demo and rebuild would have been no more than about 2 years: as of now the intersection appearance, tax revenue, new housing supply ; would all be currently in place. So, in this particular case "everybody" would have been better served with a 'new build' from the ground up as I can see we now have many more years with that 'blight'
    Sitting on that most prominent of 57th street.

  10. #190
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    You just need to be more patient then. I'd rather wait ten years for this, then two seconds for a (likely) unremarkable new building.

  11. #191

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    Quote Originally Posted by antinimby View Post
    You just need to be more patient then. I'd rather wait ten years for this, then two seconds for a (likely) unremarkable new building.
    I fully understand your preference on the matter: that's why it is called an 'opinion' - I can not reasonably say "um you are wrong".....

    Cheers

  12. #192

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    But when you base your opinion on such wrong information, as you have just done, we can reasonably say "um you are wrong".

  13. #193

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    Quote Originally Posted by scumonkey View Post
    But when you base your opinion on such wrong information, as you have just done, we can reasonably say "um you are wrong".
    He never had any "wrong information"; he just has different priorities. I happen to agree that this corner is a waste, sitting there for decades rotting because the landmarking made the building almost worthless. It wasn't redeveloped until Manhattan became so insanely expensive that even lowrise, totally gutted buildings subject to landmarks regulations became somewhat valuable.

    You are saying "I value the presence of old buildings moreso than an increased tax base, more housing and neighborhood redevelopment". That's fine, and plenty of people agree with you, but others prioritize housing and tax base. If the corner had never been landmarked, you probably would have a 50 floor building and hundreds of housing units, as well as extensive street-retail, all making this corner much more vibrant, active, and valuable.

    But since landmarked buildings are basically permanent, and the decision is almost always irreversible, we might as well deal with it, and get as nice a renovation as possible. Hopefully adjacent sites will allow for new housing and tax base.

  14. #194

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    You are saying "I value the presence of old buildings moreso than an increased tax base, more housing and neighborhood redevelopment". That's fine, and plenty of people agree with you, but others prioritize housing and tax base.
    I'm not saying anything like that at all.
    I was simply pointing out that this situation is a bit more complicated.

    #1 None of this (the buildings state of disrepair) should have been allowed to happen in the first place.
    (Many reasons for, and people to point fingers at, here.)

    Also local zoning (and it's not likely to change here anytime soon), would not, if this building was removed, allow another one nearly as big to be built on this plot. So a newer, smaller, boxy glass building (which is surly what we'd get), would not produce (i would assume),as much revenue/taxes as the Windermere could if it was not falling apart.
    And that same zoning squashes any thoughts about having "a 50 floor building and hundreds of housing units, as well as extensive street-retail, all making this corner much more vibrant, active, and valuable."

    This building had been purposefully left to rot over the years by a slimy owner, long before it was land marked, which wasn't until 2005.
    The recent land marking at least, allowed the city to levy heavy fines at this douche for failure to maintain- finally forcing him to sell to, hopefully someone more willing to finally do something about it (and that seams to be the case, also because it's now land marked, we can be assured this corner won't be the victim of another plain glass box.)

    And you have to remember there is (or was until recently), still a lot of red tape for the courts to wade through regarding the past tenants, that were forced out by the unscrupulous landlord. This also hasn't helped in getting anything done here- one way or the other.

  15. #195
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    We don't know what would have replaced the Windemere had it not been landmarked. I'm glad it's still there and being renovated. It's unique, unlike the most likely cookie cutter replacement.

    I also don't agree that a replacement would result in "making this corner much more vibrant, active...". "Valuable", obviously, but at what cost? There are plenty of crappy buildings that could provide replacement opportunities for housing etc. Vibrancy and retail activity don't have to exist at every street corner (it doesn't look too bad on Google street view anyway IMO). It doesn't always have to be the older buildings that have to go. Irrespective of how anyone here feels about new versus old, it's an indisputable fact that New York City is renowned for its amazing architectural legacy. Let's hope it stays that way.

    ...oh, I forgot, this is 57th Street! How silly of me....

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