It's been three years since Alchemy Properties bought the top floors of the iconic Woolworth Building, with the goal of transforming them into ultra-luxury, "one of a kind" residences. Since then, the firm has been hard at work on making that vision a reality, bringing on interior architect Thierry W. Despont to create stately apartments in what will be called the Woolworth Tower Residences (including the so-called "castle in the sky," a seven-floor penthouse on the tippy-top of the building.) And while the residences—which begin at $4.6 million, and skyrocket from there—won't be completed until 2017, Curbed recently got a tour of the nearby sales gallery, which features a model of a two-bedroom residence, along with a sneak peek at the building itself.
"It's by far the hardest building we've ever done," says Alchemy Properties president Kenneth Horn. The challenges of a project of this scale are myriad: Because Alchemy owns only the top floors of Woolworth, they must coordinate any construction work with the owners of the building. Because it's a landmark, they had to get approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to implement many of the forthcoming changes, from the addition of outdoor spaces on the 29th floor to the size of the lip on a windowsill. And given the building's popularity and status as a New York City icon, Alchemy knows that all eyes are on this renovation. "You don't want to mess it up; you want to do it correctly," Horn explains.
But he thinks that Alchemy has succeeded, in part because the firm, along with Despont, is committed to creating residences that showcase the modern features that homeowners expect—top-of-the-line appliances, schmancy building amenities, and the like—while staying true to the building's heritage. "It's a little risky," Horn notes. "We're not doing sleek, modern kitchens; we're doing things that are a little more stately."
The word that keeps coming up when talking about the Woolworth Residences is "grand," which is fitting, considering the scope of the project, and the attention to detail that went into each unit. Cass Gilbert's original designs for the building served as inspiration, with some of those touches—tiles that were in Frank Woolworth's office, or a "W" motif created by the legendary architect—incorporated into the new residences. Despont even worked to restore the famed Woolworth Pool, which has been restored and re-imagined using Gilbert's own architectural drawings. Residents will have their own private lobby, separate from that of the Woolworth's own grand public lobby. There will also be a private, super-speedy elevator, whose cars were made using casts of the building's original 1913 elevator cars.
[The sales gallery for the Woolworth Tower Residences. All photos by Will Femia]
The sales gallery is a few blocks from the building itself, but offers prospective buyers the chance to see what a two-bedroom unit within the Woolworth will look like. The model apartment is elegantly staged, with muted tones (cream-colored marble, oak flooring, maple cabinets) throughout, and furniture that harks back to the building's Art Deco past. You can see the actual layout of a living room (with high, airy ceilings), kitchen, master bathroom, and an enormous walk-in closet. Historical photos of the building are used throughout as reference points, and there's even an illustration of the Pinnacle Penthouse that Despont created when he was feeling particularly inspired.
Curbed also got the chance to go to the 41st and 40th floors of the Woolworth Building, which are currently under construction and showcase the views that are one of the residences' biggest selling points. When completed, each floor will have both a three-bedroom and two-bedroom unit. One of the coolest things we saw: On the 40th floor, there's an alcove that used to be Frank Woolworth's private office; it's now being incorporated into the apartment itself. Little touches like that are what make this particular building so different from many of the city's other luxury properties. You're not just buying a palatial apartment; you're also buying a bit of history.