Tom Soter in Bricks & Bucks on April 10, 2013
But the current five-person board – of which Fields was president for years until he stepped down last October – also knew that the 17-unit 55 White Street had fallen into disrepair. The sponsor who converted the property to condominium loft units in the mid-1990s had done “a lot of really crappy work in the original renovation,” Fields notes, paying little attention to the historical exterior of the building, and discarding some of the original cast-iron elements in favor of riveted aluminum and substandard fiberglass. About 10 years ago, Fields says that a repair job “went very badly as well.”
Neglected and mishandled, the property was deteriorating. “There was a piece of cast-iron literally hanging by a thread on the front of the building,” says Fields. Howard L. Zimmerman Architects, which had been introduced to the property to investigate leaks by 55 White Street manager Andrews Building Corp. in 2007, returned in 2009. Explains Fields: “As we thought about addressing the big safety issue, we said, ‘Once we’re up there, we might as well do’” everything that needed to be done. In 2009, Fields says they began taking bids on the project, with Zimmerman acting as a façade and exterior restoration consultant to review and prepare bid and construction documents for the restoration.
The work began in 2010. The majority of the cast-iron elements were removed and restored in shop and reinstalled upon completion. Missing elements were replaced with fiberglass matching the exact detail of the original. Through a computer-matching process, the entire façade was then coated to duplicate the original color of the building.
The façade windows were stripped to bare wood, and then repaired and painted to match the original condition. Rotten wood, rusted fasteners, and metal flashings were removed and replaced with stainless steel versions. Cracks, holes, and voids in the wood were filled with wood, while rotting wood was cut out of the heavily damaged sections and new wood spliced into the existing frames. New sill moldings were replaced as well.
Zimmerman notes that extreme care was taken with everything, from marble window headers and sills and iron shutters on some of the windows to a replacement of the roof (damaged by penthouse apartments installed there during the 1990s conversion).
The board had regular weekly meetings with architect Brett Rieger, from Zimmerman, who had been at every board meeting leading up to construction and who now supervised the job. It was budgeted at $1 million, but because of defects and deterioration discovered as the work progressed, it is now $200,000 over budget. That money has come from a special assessment spread over three years, paid for by the young professionals, some with children, who are increasingly populating the building.
When will it all end? Fields, who writes for television (his latest are “Mankind” and “The Men Who Built America,” on the History Channel this fall), reports that the scaffolding has just started coming down, so that means, “we’re almost done.” And 55 White Street will have its groove back. At last.
Cost: $1.2 million
Howard L. Zimmerman Architects
Brend Renovation Corp.
Andrews Building Corp.
Board president: Ed Fields
Began in summer 2010 and scheduled for completion in spring 2013.
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