This month in real estate history

This Month in Real Estate History

Sep.September 01, 2015 07:00 AM
From left: The Belnord shortly after it was completed, The Chrysler Building Annex and The former police HQ in Little Italy

From left: The Belnord shortly after it was completed, The Chrysler Building Annex and the former police HQ in Little Italy

1908: Belnord building plans filed

Noted architects Philip Hiss and H. Hobart Weekes filed plans to build what the New York Times called “the largest apartment house in this country, if not in the world,” 107 years ago this month.

The Belnord Realty Company expected to spend $3 million (nearly $80 million in 2015 dollars) on the massive luxury residential building.

The Renaissance Revival-style building was built on vacant land owned by the Hoyt family estate, which purposely held the space empty in anticipation of a pricey development project. Once complete, it would take up the entire block bounded by Broadway and Amsterdam avenues from 86th to 87th streets on the Upper West Side. That’s twice as big as the Madison Square Garden of the time, which had the largest main hall in the world.

“The house will be not only the most complete, but the largest that I know of either in America or Europe,” Weekes said a week before filing the plans.

A total of 175 apartments were planned for the 13-story building, with each apartment containing nine to 14 rooms. The building was built around a central 22,000-square-foot interior courtyard with a huge grassy lawn and palm-bordered fountain.

The Belnord, completed in 1909, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. HFZ Capital Group purchased the property, which now contains 218 units, from Extell Development for $575 million in March. The price was more than $1,000 per square foot, or $2.64 million per apartment. 

1951: Chrysler Annex brick dilemma

Designers of the Chrysler Building’s 32-story annex had to improvise on the new building’s façade after they discovered that the bricks used to adorn the iconic Art Deco skyscraper were no longer manufactured, 64 years ago this month.

The original plan was for the annex at 159 East 42nd Street to use the same facing bricks that were used 21 years earlier for its namesake tower. When they learned the Chrysler Building’s white bricks were no longer available, ceramists and technicians were called in to duplicate them.

Despite that effort, the annex’s white bricks were done away with entirely in 1999 as part of a $100 million renovation of the entire block by Tishman Speyer Properties. “Not only isn’t it terribly attractive,” the company’s president, Jerry Speyer, said of the annex the year before. “But it isn’t as efficient as it could be.”

The building’s floors were extended to the west during that renovation, and the elevators moved to the center of the building from the back. The extension was then entirely clad in glass. The extension brought the total square footage of the annex to 666,000, up from about 536,000 square feet.

The Chrysler Building, the tallest structure in the world when it opened in 1930, is still the world’s tallest steel-supported brick building.

1983: City seeks to revive old Police HQ

New York City published an advertisement seeking a developer to save the abandoned city Police Headquarters, 32 years ago this month.

Those who redeveloped the “unique landmark building, five stories, 114,000 square feet” were promised “outstanding tax benefits.” It was just one of 20,000 properties the Department of General Services was trying to sell off.

The copper-domed building at 240 Centre Street was built in 1909 and served as police headquarters until 1973, when the NYPD moved to 1 Police Plaza.

The ornate building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, but after a plan to transform it into a 125-room luxury hotel fell through, it lingered in disrepair. “It’s a great tragedy,” Terrence Moan, deputy commissioner of the real property division, told the New York Times. “A property that is blighting the neighborhood.”

A short time later, developer Arthur Emil proposed to turn the 38,120-square-foot building into luxury condos; a plan that was ultimately approved by the city. He paid $4.2 million for the building on the northern edge of Little Italy and renovated it for $20 million, finishing the project in 1988. The building now contains 55 units, according to StreetEasy, with one active listing, a two-bedroom for $3.7 million.


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