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02/09/2017
Miami's Community Newspapers
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Chelsea's Sleeping Giant Remade as Luxury Condos With 14-Foot Ceilings

Back in the post-crash days of '09, a rumor hit the 'wire that the Art Deco Ralph Walker-designed Verizon building on West 18th Street near 7th Avenue was bought by a developer for a future condo conversion. (Background check: Walker is the old-school New York architect behind 1 Wall Street and the Barclay-Vesey Building; Frank Lloyd Wright was a fan.) DOF records illuminated a few juicy details, including a sale price of $25 million and the fact that Verizon would stay on as a tenant, but no confirmation was forthcoming via concerning parties. Two years have passed and now, not to say we told you so, but: we told you so!

The salient facts: developers Michael Stern and Elliott Joseph bought space in the 1929 skyscraper for a song in 2009, in the interest of carving out 55 luxury condos on the 9th floor and up. Verizon will maintain use of the first eight floors as office space with a separate entrance on West 17th Street. Despite its age and architectural pedigree, the building is not landmarked, so while the development team and project architects Cetra/Ruddy (not Gensler, as initially reported) are taking meticulous care to restore the aesthetics of the Walker original, they are also at liberty to make changes.

Since we're talking luxury apartments, that translates to new, ten-foot windows punched in the facade, a four-story penthouse extension on the roof, and reconfigured egress with the stairwells moved from the four corners to the center of the structure, allowing floorplans that capitalize on double-exposure views. One of the more remarkable features is its lofty ceiling heights—since each floor is nearly 15' tall, the whole building looms over its neighbors, affording gobsmacking panoramic views to the south, west and north. Take our word for it: we got a very early sneak preview of the gutted upper floors last week and the overall effect is one of dizzying dissonance, from the exterior (a beautifully-detailed but relatively-under-the-radar setback tower) to the interior, a behemoth smack dab in the middle of Chelsea.