New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




A Sugar Hill Icon Recaptures Glory

Kathryn Farrell in Bricks & Bucks on September 11, 2013

470 Convent Avenue, Sugar Hill, Harlem

470 Convent Avenue - 1940

470 Convent Avenue in a tax photo circa 1940 

Sept. 11, 2013

Brick by brick

The building’s iconic status, however, presents its own challenges. Because the district is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, both the board and Rand had to work closely with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to ensure that the repairs did not compromise its design integrity. 

The full renovation plan includes repairing limestone and terracotta decorative elements and replacing bricks, lintels, slate window sills and the parapet. The extensive nature of the project means the LPC is involved nearly every step of the way. 

“We had some difficulties with locating the kind of brick used in the building, because it’s not a standard size,” says Kemp. “It’s been really difficult to get the right dimensions.” However, the building is in luck: the construction team was able to find an acceptable brick that can be combined with salvaged brickwork from the building. It is manufactured by Watsontown Brick; its “Empire” and “Windsor” line of orange products has been approved by the LPC and installation has begun.

Sweetening the pill

One area where there hasn’t been any problem is the planned green roof deck. When the issue of roof replacement was brought up with shareholders, the creation of a communal space became an obvious choice. “There are a couple of roof decks in the neighborhood, but not nice ones like ours,” says Davu. “We’re going to be original. It’s the main thing people ask about. ‘It’s going to happen definitely next year, right, Michael?’ Sure, why not?” That way, along with the projected energy savings, they will get something tangible out of the project, he adds.

The building escaped Superstorm Sandy’s wrath last year relatively unscathed. Rand is using pipe instead of suspended scaffolding for renovations because of the height involved. The loss of the scaffold’s netting was the only damage 470 Convent sustained from the hurricane, says Kemp.

“The Department of Buildings came by and saw [the netting gone] and issued a stop-work order, so we [could not] work until the netting [was] secure.” But that was the biggest Sandy-related holdup. 

Plans are under way to replace all windows, requiring interior access. “The way you do that is typically different because exterior work can be done by area, but interior work is organized by floor,” says Kemp. “We have to coordinate access.” Window installation will probably occur in the early spring of 2014, adds Kemp. 

The building residents are all first-time homebuyers, according to Davu, who notes: “They balance out on decisions because everyone is at a different place in their lives." Even when presented with the massive scope of the renovation, only one or two persons opposed the plans. “The majority said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Project start date: August 2012

Project completion date: September 2014


● Cost: $1.3M
● Façade, roof, and window restoration on historic landmark Beaux Arts building, including new limestone and terra cotta decorative elements, brick and slate work, and new roof-level railings
● Addition of a green roof deck functioning as communal space
● Limited heating system upgrades
● Structural reinforcement of northern wing


● Jamey Ehrman and Albelisa KempRand Engineering & Architecture
● Central Construction
● Champion Combustion
● Watsontown Brick
● Michael Davu, board president

Property Taxes

Estimated Market Value: $1,546,000
Assessed Value: $525,420

Recent Sales

4/8/2013: $210,000
10/9/12: $230,000
6/18/12: $225,000

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