Woolworth Tower Residences
New York City
Best Project

Owner: BlackRock
Lead Design Firm: SLCE Architects
General Contractor/Construction Manager: CNY
Civil Engineer: Langan
Structural Engineer: Gilsanz Murray Steficek LLP
MEP Engineer: AKF Group LLC
Design Architect: The Office of Thierry W. Despont Ltd.
Owner’s Representative: Gardiner & Theobald

The Woolworth Building, an iconic tower that was the world’s tallest in 1913, has been transformed into a mixed-use skyscraper—though it still has its Cass Gilbert-designed neo-Gothic facade, soaring arches and gargoyles.

The renovated 62-story tower has commercial office tenants up to the 29th floor and residential units on its upper floors, including a five-level, 9,000-sq-ft penthouse with a private elevator. The team had to meet strict landmark preservation standards and tackle the task without a crane or exterior hoist.

The project, which started in early 2016, primarily focused on converting the upper floors into luxury residences, with existing commercial tenants remaining on the 28 lower floors. With the building being both partially occupied and having a landmark facade, the team was not able to erect an external hoist. This, and new city rules preventing the use of self-closing cranes, meant they had to opt for an internal hoist and winch chain fall system to transport workers and move heavy or fragile materials.

The transport options were especially difficult because the usable hoist cab had small dimensions, requiring the team to use the chain fall system in an empty elevator shaft set for a new elevator. Even then, the team had to disassemble oversized materials such as mechanical equipment in order to transport it to the upper floors.

The project entailed a complete gut renovation of 110,000 sq ft of space; a $22-million restoration of the terra-cotta facade, including turrets, metalwork and other design features; the upgrade or replacement of MEP infrastructure, including a new mechanical floor; and reconstruction of structural elements including core elevator shafts and stairwells.

The team also reinforced the pinnacle on the 50th to 58th floors; reconstructed the entrance and lobby, with two new residential elevators at the ground floor; added wine rooms, bicycle storage, a yoga studio, a fitness studio, and a lounge and gaming area; and restored the historic subcellar lap pool.

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