The Plan: Prebuilt Offices at 77 Water Street


When Robert and Melvyn Kaufman developed the office building at 77 Water Street in 1970, they imbued the 26-story property with some offbeat features, like a turn-of-the-century wooden candy store in the lobby and a World War I fighter plane on the roof.

Although the 26-story Financial District tower has kept its hidden charms, its dated 1970s office interiors are primed for an update. For the first time in nearly two decades, William Kaufman Organization finally has space it can rent and renovate in the building, which was triple-net leased by Goldman Sachs in 2000. Goldman never moved in and instead subleased the 600,000-square-foot building to a variety of tenants, many of which remained after Goldman’s net lease expired last year. Other companies have departed as their leases with Goldman ended, leaving Kaufman with a handful of floors it could modernize to attract younger, hipper tenants.

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For years, the Emery Roth & Sons-designed tower has mostly housed the corporate old guard of the Financial District. Major tenants include major law firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard Smith, engineering firm ARUP, AT&T and management consulting firm Capco. AT&T had four floors in the building and decided not to renew on the 24th floor, freeing up 25,358 square feet.

Kaufman decided to renovate the entire floor into four prebuilt suites designed by Fogarty Finger Architecture. There are light wooden floors and matching blonde wood finishes, as well as white dropped sheetrock ceilings that have been made a little more dramatic with large, black-painted rectangular cut-outs to expose the original ceilings. A front reception area adorned with postmodernist art can be converted into a glass-walled conference room if the tenant so desires. Kitchens and pantries feature black wooden cabinetry, dramatic white marble backsplashes, black marble countertops. There are updated bathrooms and new elevator banks, where the elevator doors have been painted black and the walls bright white.

“We directed Fogarty Finger to warm the space and make it feel very comfortable,” explained Jonathan Iger, the CEO of Sage Realty Corporation, Kaufman’s management arm. “The mandate was to design the highest end pre-builts from a design perspective in the Financial District.”

He added that “it can sometimes be a little industrial and cold when you have exposed ceilings and exposed flooring, and I think Fogarty Finger did a good job of preventing that. It’s exposed in all the open work areas and in the reception and pantry. In the rest of that space it’s a clean, crisp sheetrock ceiling. So, if you walk in there, you’ll never see a dropped ceiling tile.”

Asking rent for the space is $65 a square foot, and construction on the pre-builts finished earlier this month.

Robert Finger, a director at Fogarty Finger who oversaw the project, said that the design “reflects an elevated and modern work environment that fuses the building’s past with contemporary elements, like exposed ceilings, merged with black accents. Our approach honors some of the historic characters of wood and steel, while infusing a new and varied palette of materials and textures for the space, such as concrete, oak, black granite, gray travertine and fabrics including ribbed grey felt and acoustic paneling.”