Curbed Inside: The Woolworth Building's Makeover
October 9, 2007
[Near the top of the Woolworth Building. Be very afraid.]
Cass Gilbert's legendary Woolworth Building, completed in 1913 at 233 Broadway, has somehow withstood the test of time—barely. Beset by cut-rate lobby renovations, bad terra-cotta patchings, and the economic need to squeeze as much rent as possible out of an aging office building, the old lady is showing her age. Which is why the news that the top 25 floors of the Woolworth Building would be made over into "the financial district's first office tower with a country club's exclusivity—and perhaps its extraordinary membership fees," as the NYT put it, exploded across our retinas with the glare of a thousand suns. A commercial country club for the hedge fund set? In the Woolworth Building? Really?
Well, yes, actually. Those were the words of Randy Gerner, a principal at GKV Architects, the firm overseeing the Woolworth's high-end makeover. How about coming over for an exclusive look at the work so far? he asked. Well hell yes, we replied, as soon as we realized we'd not only get to look at floors closed to the public for years, but even make it all the way to the wraparound rooftop cupola at the very top of the building's 62 habitable floors. And so we did.
47th floor elevator bank.
Our tour began on the 47th floor, high above where the renovation begins. They're fully gutting floors 30 through 62, while firms on lower floors, like that open to the public this past weekend at Open House New York, remain open. Gerner and Co. won the project after outlining this vision to the owners, but Gerner's fondness for the Woolworth building is clear—as was that of our other tour guide, the building's unofficial historian, Roy Suskin.
View upwards from 47.
The upper floors at this point are almost fully gutted, with a hole being carved through each of them for a new elevator. Here, we're looking up from the 47th floor through the floors above. At this level, there's about 5000 to 6000 square feet of rentable space; as the building narrows, upper floors have far less. They'll be used for amenity space, which we assume will include lapdances. And yes, they're remaking Woolworth's private swimming pool in the basement for use as well.
At the 50th floor.
Ascending from the 50th floor.
The slot cut for the new elevator to-be.
Wall of windows on the climb towards the 62nd floor.
From here, a spiral staircase leads further up.
As the paint chips away, signatures from the original Woolworth construction team are viewable anew.
Hallway just below the cupola.
The spiral staircase to the top.
And out into one of the most stunning wrap-around views of New York City you'll ever see.
The terrace, which will become a private observatory deck for tenants, was opened to the public until the start of World War I. It's been closed since. We'll have many more views from here, and the outdoor terrace on the 43rd floor as well, later this week.