The High End: Historic Bank Building Near City Hall Becoming Condos

The High End: Historic Bank Building Near City Hall Becoming Condos

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Surrounded by famous buildings that border or lie within City Hall Park, it’s easy to miss the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank building on Chambers Street.

Constructed between 1909 and 1912, the landmark-designated Beaux-Arts building has seen its share of tenants. Until the late 1960s, it served as bank headquarters of what is now the Emigrant Savings Bank and housed many government agencies when it was subsequently city-owned until 2013.

Now the developer the Chetrit Group is turning the structure into condominiums, hoping to push the boundaries of TriBeCa eastward.

“You’re right in the center of everything” that is downtown Manhattan, said Angela Ferrara, executive vice president of sales and leasing at the Marketing Directors, the firm in charge of sales. “You’ve got every train option available, but if you want to walk home from your office in the Financial District or in Battery Park City, this is perfect.”


Credit
Katherine Marks for The New York Times

Forty-nine Chambers Street, designed by the architect Raymond F. Almirall, is steeped in history. With the urging of John Hughes, the city’s first archbishop, the bank was created in 1850 by the Irish Emigrant Society, a group that helped newly arrived immigrants from the Emerald Isle. Any savings deposited at the bank could be remitted to family back home.

As the number of Irish immigrants ballooned, so did bank deposits. By 1857, it was the city’s seventh largest savings bank and provided Archbishop Hughes a loan so he could buy the lots on Fifth Avenue where St. Patrick’s Cathedral now stands, according to the book “International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 59.”

The 17-story structure was the city’s first H-shaped skyscraper, allowing sunlight to penetrate deeper into the building. Although electric wiring was available, natural sunlight was the main source of light until the introduction of fluorescent light bulbs in the 1940s, according to Carol Willis, founder and curator of the Skyscraper Museum.

“If the developer wanted a valuable price per square footage, you needed light to be able to reach the inner spaces,” she said.

The main living area of a model showroom.

Credit
Katherine Marks for The New York Times

The new homes will have even more light, as additional windows will be cut into the western and eastern facades, a spokesman for the developer said.

There will be 99 units, of which four are penthouses. The smallest one-bedroom home, at around 1,000 square feet, will start at $1.955 million. Two-bedrooms will start at around $3 million, while three-bedrooms will start at $5.2 million, according to Ms. Ferrara. Prices for the penthouses were not yet available.

Priced slightly under $1,900 per square foot, the homes are cheaper than condos currently for sale in the area, according to data from the Marketing Directors. Many area homes are asking anywhere between $2,300 and $3,400 per square foot.

Although the exterior of the building is eye-catching, with large sculpted swags, wreaths and human figures, the 15,000-square-foot former bank lobby is equally impressive. Most of the lobby’s ornate decorations, which include several large stained glass ceiling panels, have been restored.

Michael Gabellini, a partner at the interior design firm Gabellini Sheppard Associates, said that stepping into the lobby the first time felt like walking into Grand Central Station. He took cues from the lobby’s traditional décor but modernized the look for the homes.

Various hues of white mosaic tile line some of the shower walls, after Mr. Gabellini noticed the Italian mosaic tiles of various shades and colors on the lobby floor. Kitchen counters, backsplashes and islands are made from black San Marino marble with gold flecks, to contrast with a lighter herringbone wooden floor.

“The building uses dark and light materials in a dramatic and textual way,” he said.

The bank lobby, along with a subbasement that is street level with Reade Street at the rear of the building, will likely be leased to a commercial tenant, perhaps a dining or social club, the developer’s spokesman said. The condo’s entrance will be on the eastern end of the building facing Chambers Street.

The condo’s common amenity area will be situated below the subbasement. This includes a pool, a hammam, a yoga and fitness room, bike storage and a lounge. The rooftop space will have a dining area, green walls and a direct view of the statue Civic Fame, which sits on the top of the Municipal Building tower at 1 Centre Street.

Sales will begin Monday and the building is expected to be completed in summer 2018.

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