Last week, we toured 90 Morton Street, a 12-story building in the West Village that is being converted from warehouse to condominiums. Construction is moving along quickly, with the major structural additions now complete. Brack Capital Real Estate is responsible for the development, having purchased the site in 2014 for $105 million. YIMBY sat down with the project’s team to discuss the evolution of the southwest West Village, the challenges involved in converting and expanding a historic warehouse, and expectations for the neighborhood’s future.
YIMBY in bold.
90 Morton Street isn’t the only new development in the neighborhood. What else is happening next door and in the surrounding blocks?
[Shlomi Reuveni, lead broker] There are currently two new developments under construction, one to the south of us and the other to the west. They are quite small relatively speaking, one is 14 units and the other 10 and are ground-up construction but should be completed around the same time that we are. This adds architectural diversity and interest to the neighborhood.
What year was 90 Morton originally built and who was the architect? Can you give a rundown of its various functionalities between then and now?
[Asaf Gottesman, lead architect / GSARCH] 90 Morton was originally a printing warehouse constructed in 1912. Before the transformation, the building was originally eight floors and then in the 1960s, four additional floors were added. When the team began the building process we decided to redo (we could not remove the floors because it would result in losing two floors) the top floors, and completely reconstructed them which required substantial structural work all through the building.
The building will be 12 floors—the top four floors have cantilevered terraces to maximize privacy, space and natural light for the residents. The eighth floor serves as a transition between the original, classically inspired building, and the more contemporary, site specific, upper floors.
Throughout the building we went to extreme lengths to retain the high ceilings and thick concrete and brick walls. It was important for us to retain the play between the solidity of the building and the expansive window sizes. The base of the building still stays true to its historic roots—high, concrete ceilings, thick walls and floors that were made specifically to hold heavy printing materials and the original openings of the windows. Leroy Street Studio did the interior design.
How do you think 90 Morton and its co-developments in the surrounding blocks will change the fabric of the neighborhood?
[SR] Part of the beauty and vibrancy of NYC is that it always changing and bringing new construction, architectural ideas and new people to various neighborhoods and the West Village is no different.
The West Village is a highly sought after part of the city and has a strong community feel so it stands to reason that it would attract new residents and developers alike. This in turn brings in new restaurants and shops and creates a new buzz for the neighborhood.
What are the biggest challenges in renovating and expanding the old printing house?
[AG] The biggest challenge in 90 Morton’s renovation was creating a building that both refines and celebrates the beauty of classical industrial architecture while merging it with a substantially more radical interpretation of NYC’s dormer windows code.
Rather than following the traditional “wedding cake” solution that reduces the size of roof terraces and limits privacy, we opted for cantilevered dormers that expanded external terraces, and contributed to greater privacy between the penthouses.
Finally, we introduced several design features such as the distinctly framed, dark bronze, anodized windows, custom designed solid steel banisters, a dramatic bulk head and roof gardens, as well as, detailed lighting that highlight the cantilevered dormers and serves as inspiration for the lights along the ground floor.
What are the main differences between the old and new components within 90 Morton and its expansion?
[AG] The original eight floors of the turn of the century industrial building are classically inspired and are typified by massive repetitive windows and classical detailing. The brick and concrete walls are thick and substantial yet, like most classical buildings, there is little effort to respond to the surrounding environment or the views.
From the eighth floor upwards the underlying design shifts to maximizing the specific attributes of every apartment rather than classical repetition. Whether the individual penthouses face The Empire State Building, the Hudson or The Statue of Liberty, our aim was to maximize the views and terraces, to ensure privacy while infusing these upper floors with the sense of solidity and depth that render the original eight floors majestically.
While 90 Morton and its surrounds should wrap relatively soon, the blocks below the West Village offer some of the biggest remaining opportunities on the Far West Side. How do you think realization of plans for 550 Washington would change the surrounds once they (possibly) wrap in the 2020s?
[SR] Development is a part of the fabric of the city and adds excitement and new opportunities to surrounding areas. That is the history of NYC and will be the future.
With so many new developments in the surrounds, do you think the neighborhood needs infrastructure improvements, or is the wave of construction a sign of accessibility that merits considerations for less restrictive zoning?
[SR] There should always be zoning in place to protect and create parks and green spaces and limit in building height and is why so much of the West Village has remained charming and residential. Having said that, infrastructure improvements are also a necessity to protect and improve the existing community while fostering the inevitability of more development.
As retail along Bleecker Street becomes increasingly abandoned due to speculation and red tape, where do you see as the new heart of the West Village’s retail scene now, and in another five years?
[SR] Hudson both north and south of Morton Street is quite vibrant with the more bigger stores to the south and the smaller more boutique stores to the north of Morton. One can find most anything within a short walk from 90 Morton Street including a vibrant restaurant scene.
When will construction wrap in its entirety and what’s the rundown on unit count?
[SR] Completion is slated for Q4 2018/Q1 2019. 90 Morton will have 117,600 square feet in all with 35 condominiums, and amenities including an attended lobby, a library, cold storage room, children’s playroom, and a 2,760 square feet rooftop terrace.