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Elevator-Cab Upgrade: When Aesthetics Can Give Your Market Value a Lift

Ronda Kaysen in Board Operations on December 5, 2013

The Brevard, 245 E. 54th Street

Elevator-Cab Upgrades
Dec. 5, 2013

There are certain times in a building's life when reconsidering that worn wood paneling might be in order, such as when you're doing a mechanical upgrade. In fact, if a board plans to take the elevator out of service for repairs, it should consider investing in a new cab. Otherwise, shareholders might be disappointed to step into a rehabilitated machine that looks just as sad as its predecessor.

"If you're going to spend $100,000 on an elevator, you'd better change the cab as well or no one is going to know you actually did the work," says Gerard J. Picaso, president of the property management company Gerard J. Picaso Inc.

Overdue Facelift 

For The Brevard, the time to revisit the elevators came when the mechanical systems needed to be replaced. The cabs — outfitted with Formica, wood-grained panels, and mirrors — had not been updated ever since the 29-story co-op was built in 1977. So, when the board embarked on a $900,000 elevator replacement project, it decided to give the passenger cars a facelift similar to what the lobby had received three years earlier. 

The board turned to Forbes-Ergas Design Associates, which had redesigned the lobby and hallways. Together, they selected materials that were both elegant and durable. The building set aside $130,000 of its elevator budget for the four cabs. 

If that sounds like a hefty sum, it's not. In general, new cabs don't come cheap, costing anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000, depending on the finishes. But, unlike a hallway, an elevator is designed to move, and different materials can affect that movement. In the end, board members settled on a mix of woven metal in a stainless steel varnish with bronze finishes. Work on the first elevator finished in October.

"Elevators really run the gamut in terms of quality," says Susan Lauren, president of Lauren & Chase Design Group. "You can tell the difference. You really can."

Bundling Your Renovations 

Another common time to redo an elevator is when a building remodels its lobby and hallways. After a lobby has been renovated at great expense, those forsaken elevators look that much worse, drawing attention straight from the brand-new leather sofas to the tired cab interiors. "When you walk into a building and you walk through the lobby and you take the elevator, your experience should be one of harmony and unity," says Joel M. Ergas, president of Forbes-Ergas.

However, many buildings are hesitant to shell out thousands of dollars on a largely aesthetic project. To save money, Lauren suggests leaving the interiors alone and simply re-cladding the external doors and frames, which would cost about $6,000. 

The biggest risk to a cab redesign is forgetting to deal with it all. It is not uncommon for the board to become so consumed with the mechanical side of an upgrade that it forgets to pick out the tiles and walls. In the worst-case scenario, the elevator has been out of service for several weeks while the mechanical parts are being rebuilt and suddenly contractors are scrambling to order stone-veneer wall coverings, delaying a project that has already frustrated residents.


Elevator photo courtesy Forbes-Ergas

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