Behind the Facelift at 700 Broadway, New York City’s First Green Building

New York City is full of green buildings large and smallish that opt not to pursue LEED (or other) certification for various reasons. But no un-certified green building in NYC has the pedigree of 700 Broadway. George Post’s 19th-century classical revival beauty in the East Village bills itself, justifiably, as New York’s first green green building, thanks in large part to a series of (way, way ahead-of-their-time) building-wide green upgrades made by former tenants The National Audubon Society. By just about any standard, 700 Broadway remains one of the greenest office buildings in New York City. It’s an old building, but it was probably reasonable for the law firm of Weitz and Luxenberg, which moved into 700 Broadway back in 2008, to expect a fairly easy renovation progress after completing their $70 million purchase of the building. That was not so.

New York City is full of green buildings large and smallish that opt not to pursue LEED (or other) certification for various reasons. But no un-certified green building in NYC has the pedigree of 700 Broadway. George Post’s 19th-century classical revival beauty in the East Village bills itself, justifiably, as New York’s first green green building, thanks in large part to a series of (way, way ahead-of-their-time) building-wide green upgrades made by former tenants The National Audubon Society. By just about any standard, 700 Broadway remains one of the greenest office buildings in New York City. It’s an old building, but it was probably reasonable for the law firm of Weitz and Luxenberg, which moved into 700 Broadway back in 2008, to expect a fairly easy renovation progress after completing their $70 million purchase of the building. That was not so, as an extraordinary press release from Long Island’s Seaboard Weatherproofing makes clear. Yes, an extraordinary press release. Explaining this probably warrants a move to a new paragraph.700 Broadway

As someone who spends at least some of his gbNYC-related time rewriting/recapping press releases describing various acts of construction-intensive heroism, I know well just how terrible these things usually are. Not terrible in terms of bad prose — there are certainly worse offenders out there — so much as in their dull perfunctoriness. There are a lot of ways to write poorly about things, and on some slow news day I may put you all through a step-by-step critique of, say, the prose style of Curbed. But at least weak writing still feels like writing; bad press releases read more like typing. All of which makes the very informative, very interesting press release on Seaboard’s role in architect Philip Toscano’s overhaul of 700 Broadway that much more distinctive, surprising and welcome. It lacks the corny wealth-porning and over-the-top knowingness that defines most real estate writing, which is nice, and in its depth of wonky detail and description, the press release actually struck my personal aesthetic just about dead-center. What this says about me, I’d rather not wonder.

It helps, of course, that the renovation of 700 Broadway made for a more interesting subject than usual. The building’s elegant terra cotta detailing had deteriorated badly, which led to the removal, cataloguing, repair and replacement of over 900 individual items. But there was more wrong with the building than mere cosmetics, Toscano et al soon found out. “The property had not been built to accommodate settling and constant vibrations from the nearby subway line,” our anonymous press release maestro writes. “The vibrations had caused one of the walls at the top of the building to move, which resulted in the walls leaning several inches outward. Several large cracks in the wall that extended from the exterior to the interior of the building were evident. Another façade defect, invisible until the walls were dismantled, was separation of the inner and outer walls.” This meant that the eintire eighth floor had to be dismantled and rebuilt from the roof on down, among other things. It’s not great journalism or anything — although it would be funny if, say, Fox News abruptly replaced its crypto-corporatist bias with the pro-Seaboard Weatherproofing bias on display in this press release — but it’s a fun read, if only because of how dramatic the renovation itself was.

So, yeah: this might be termed a must-read press release. Or at least I’m calling it that. I’m going to make an appointment with a psychotherapist now, if you’ll excuse me.

about gbNYC

gbNYC is a multi-disciplinary consulting and real estate services firm. In addition to representing office tenants and commercial buyers in leasing and acquisitions, we also provide innovative consulting solutions from a unique, green building perspective. We advise on green building financial incentives, comment on proposed green building marketing strategies, author white papers, treatises, and market analyses, organize seminars on the LEED process and professional accreditation, and provide advice and analysis on green building risk management and the overall state of green real estate, leasing, and construction, in New York City and beyond.

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