What’s Old is New Again


A colleague of mine ran into my office one day this summer, enthused to share some news. She had just been to the opening reception for “Bill Cunningham: Facades,” held in partnership with the New York Historical Society at the Southampton Arts Center. While strolling through the gallery, she encountered a snapshot of a woman in period clothing standing before a surprisingly familiar Art Deco grill. It was that of our office building, 183 Madison Avenue.

Among the spots Cunningham, arguably one of the most influential authorities on style and fashion to stroll these streets, chose to capture was our building’s facade. Not only was the image of art-meets-architecture striking, it also underscored something I tell clients who are considering locating in a landmark structure — be prepared to be recognized. Having your office in an iconic building with so much history plays into your own firm’s branding and helps you stand out from the crowd.

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We’ve experienced this phenomenon firsthand. Our building, also known as the Madison-Belmont Building, was designed by the same architect that brought Grand Central into its grandeur. You can sense the experience as soon as you walk into lobby. The tone is set through iron and bronze framing and railings on the lower floors. Striking floor-to-ceiling windows, which must be maintained according to the building’s past, add to the charm.

However, ours is hardly the only building in Manhattan with landmark design perks to be realized. I’m also a fan of 1501 Broadway, the old Paramount Theatre. We recently had the experience of working with the landlord to bring more light into the space by creating new windows that respected and worked around the existing facade. Unique architectural details, 20-foot ceilings and an open, column-free layout are among the many reasons I recommend this spot to prospective tenants looking for a perfect mix of old and new.

Storied spaces can also work equally well for retailers. Several brands have recently opted for buildings with character galore and have hired architects who are skilled in designing around a building’s bones. Take the historic Villard Mansion on Madison, which was tapped for a retail space a year ago by Trunk Club and helped the e-comm retailer successfully make a bricks and mortar debut. Key to its success was locating in a landmarked site with 16-foot ceilings, a striking staircase, courtyard entry and smaller rooms that divided up the 26,200-square-foot space. All of these charming touches led to a standout design that set Trunk Club apart from the pack. Others are following suit, including headline-worthy Apple, which boasts a landmarked location in Soho.

It’s a trend we’re bound to see for some time to come. After all, when tenants and landlords call upon a project team that respects the beauty of the past and is eager to enhance what they are given to work with, the end result can be especially memorable. Be prepared to never be forgotten!