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Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



A Condo Keeps Its Character

A window replacement project is a daunting prospect for any building, but especially for those in designated historic districts. Exterior renovations require additional approvals from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), which translates into meticulous planning and coordination. The board at 29 King St., a 39-unit condo in SoHo, successfully navigated the process while upgrading the 10-foot-tall sash windows that are a distinctive feature of the four-story, Queen Anne-style building, which dates back to 1886. 

Best face forward. Period details have their merits, but like all building components, they require maintenance, and after half a century — the former grammar school was converted in the ’80s — the windows sorely needed replacing. “The wood was falling apart, there were some leaks, they looked in total disrepair,” says the board president, who oversaw the three-year project to install a total of 48 replica windows on the street-facing facade — 12 windows on each of the four floors — in keeping with the building’s past.

Getting the design, materials and color of the replacement windows signed off on by LPC took months. And there was an extra requirement: ensuring that the new windows were energy efficient. “It can be an architectural challenge to develop a design that looks antique but still meets the current energy code,” says Andras Joo, a senior owner’s representative at New Bedford, the condo’s management company. When it became clear additional support was needed to manage all the aspects of the project, the board began working with Joo. “It was very obvious it was more than a one-person job,” Joo says. “It needed a team.” 

Indeed, a long list of vendors was required: the window manufacturer, the window installer, an HVAC firm to handle — and in some cases replace — air conditioning units, the contractor for interior repairs once the new windows were in place, and companies that could provide moving and cleaning services for unit-owners. 

Good timing. “We tried to match the calendar to everyone’s location times,” Joo says, likening the installation project to the schedule of a movie shoot. Owners were asked to provide access to the affected apartments. Window removal and installation took place on the same day, always with an eye on the weather. Some residents chose to be away while the work was done, while others were able to accommodate the repairs by moving into other rooms. 

The new sash windows, framed in mahogany, were hauled up by pulleys outside of the building. “We overlapped the work, so while the installers were working on the next apartment, the previous apartment got the interior repairs done,” Joo says. A bespoke eggshell-green paint was used to exactly match the historical detail.

The cost of the 45-day project was close to $1 million and is being paid for with an assessment and a loan — a 50-50 financing strategy that is popular with owners in the building. The new windows also help with insulation. “Everyone is focused on improving energy ratings, so getting new windows checked a lot of boxes for the building,” Joo says.

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