To complement this year’s conference in New York of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the CTBUH Journal has published a case study of the redevelopment work that GMS is undertaking with Alchemy Properties and SLCE Architects at the Woolworth Building.
This article presents the structural and logistical issues involved in the adaptive reuse of an early 20th-century skyscraper, and outlines the case for achieving sustainability through such repurposing. Through skillful structural design, the redevelopment of the Woolworth Building serves as a case study of successfully repositioning an underutilized 1913 office tower to serve a new market – luxury residences. The Woolworth Building’s historic context, existing structural systems and scope of the residential conversion is itemized, while particular technical concerns are explained.
In dense urban geographies like New York City, where the only available direction for growth is up, developers seek to maximize the utility of tight building footprints and existing infrastructure. With increasing market demand and decreasing property supply, design approaches must also look inward to reinvent existing tall buildings and adapt to changing user profiles. When a skyscraper is complete, it does not cease to exist as a development opportunity.
Multiple iterations of structural design and redesign over 17 years facilitated the conversion of this 1913 tower, once tightly packed with office spaces for dentists and barbershops, into spacious luxury homes. The former “Cathedral of Commerce,” reaching 792 feet (241 meters), will be home to some of the highest-altitude residences in the city, including a 6-story, $110 million “Castle in the Sky” penthouse. Construction methods were designed around 100-year-old documents; modern structural systems interact with historic riveted framing and structural terracotta. This redevelopment project was governed by strict landmark preservation guidelines and provided opportunities to enhance the building’s historical value through new construction.