Marianne Schaefer in Bricks & Bucks on November 14, 2018
The clock inside the eighth note on the north facade of the iconic Carl Fischer building near Astor Place has never looked better. That’s because the condo board has been striving to return the building to the way it looked when it first opened in 1926 as headquarters of the legendary sheet-music publisher.
“Maintaining the exterior has been one of our tasks through the years,” says Franco Falcone, principal and director of design at FSI Architecture. “We worked on the huge clock on the wall, recreated the music symbol, and we put on a breathable coat on the north facade to weatherproof it. This coat is something I always explain to lay people as a Gore-Tex coat.”
That loving restoration of a downtown landmark was just one facet of a massive facade, parapet, and roof project. “Our building is unique with its cream-colored facade – it stands out from the other buildings around it,” says condo board president Artimesia Yuen. “This last project started with a Local Law 11 facade inspection, but the repairs turned out to be pretty substantial because we had to demolish and rebuild the entire parapet. This was a huge job and had the potential to make a difference as to what our building would look like if it wasn’t done appropriately.”
Though the board sought quality, it didn’t write a blank check. “We run a tight budget and are very budget conscientious,” says Yuen. “We have only 26 unit-owners in our building, and we don’t have a lot of latitude how much we can spend to do such a project. We went through a rigorous process as to what had to be done now and what could safely be postponed for the next cycle.”
Yuen credits the project’s success to teamwork. For the past six years the building has been managed by Afrim Pocesta, director of capital projects for the Andrews Organization, who solicited bids from six top-flight contractors. The board chose to hire Preserv Building Restoration Management. “They came up very competitively not just with the budget but also the timing,” Yuen says, “and they showed from the beginning that they wanted to work with us [and] be careful with our brick reconstruction.” Preserv crews repointed and replaced many bricks on the facade, diligently matching the original creamy palate of the bricks and mortar. They even preserved and re-used bricks from the demolished parapet.
“They also came up with the right pressure washing, the right chemicals in the right location to achieve a stunning facade,” says Yuen. “They could have just simply pressure washed it and left it like that.”
The condo’s reserve fund did not cover the $1.1 million cost of the project. “This time we had to do a combination of financing,” says Yuen. “We used a portion of the reserve fund we had available for such projects. We also took out a loan [and] did an assessment over a nine-month period. We assessed the unit-owners only for the facade repairs.”
Falcone, the architect, has high praise for the board. “This is a very successful and educated building,” he says. “They’re taking care of their exterior envelope because it’s certainly a gorgeous building, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission is also very pleased.”
Pocesta, the property manager, agrees. “This board understands the importance of restoring the building – facade, elevators, major components – and the importance of compensating their staff,” he says. “They understand that if they make repairs the right way, it adds value to all apartments. They really get it.”
PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – ARCHITECT: FSI Architecture. CONTRACTOR: Preserv Building Restoration Management. PROPERTY MANAGEMENT: The Andrews Organization.
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