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December 22, 2008



Sure, we've heard about warehouses turned into offices or residential units. But we think one of Gertler & Wente Architects' newest projects is the most interesting adaptive reuse projects yet: turning a nearly century-old parking garage into a church. We dropped in on principals Jeff Gertler and Larry Wente at their West 30th Street office to find out more.


Redeemer Presbyterian Church recently purchased the 40k-SF garage at 150 West 83rd St., wanting a non-churchlike structure to reflect the young, urban demographic of its congregation, whose average age is 29. Gertler & Wente designed the renovation (the model below their hands) to include an 850-person fellowship hall with Greek-amphitheater seating, 17 classrooms and communal space. It plans to build the project behind the existing fa?ade, aiming for LEED-Silver certification upon its 20-month completion. The project is in the bid process and expects to break ground early in the new year. (Fun fact: it's Manhattan's first church in 50 years).


Shorenstein recently awarded the firm redesign projects in four of its buildings, two purchased in Manhattan from Macklowe. Renovations to 850 Third Ave. will include a lobby redesign and creation of exterior terrace space on the 17th floor. Park Avenue Tower at 65 East 55th St. needs several pre-built office suites and restroom renovations. (The other buildings are Washington, D.C.'s 1401 Eye St. and Boston's 399 Boylston St.) The architects also finished another Shorenstein project this year; 125 Park Ave. (pictured) included a redesign and reconfiguration of the lobby to improve traffic flow, a new glass entry on 42nd Street, a new concierge desk and security turnstiles, lighting, elevator cabs, new stone floors, and a lighted sculptural wall.


Gertler & Wente's other projects include the recently completed Louis Vuitton "store within a store" at Bloomingdale's in Manhattan, and the largest Louis Vuitton store in the world, currently in design, at Las Vegas' CityCenter. Both architects also volunteer. Jeff sits on the planning board for his hometown of Madison, NJ, as well as the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services. Larry is doing pro-bono architectural work for a historic library in Sharon, Conn., as well as helping relocate New York's oldest schoolhouse in Millerton to a rail trail.


We've been hearing about a slowdown in the construction industry as clients don't make any major decisions regarding space. Even John Gallin & Son, the oldest family-owned construction firm in New York City, is seeing a pullback in this economy. President and fourth-gen owner Mark Varian told us in his Madison Avenue office that although most of their corporate clients aren't building out major HQ space right now, we may see more consolidation and subleasing, requiring the use of architects and construction managers. Overall, projects will be plain vanilla: we won't see a lot of high-end jobs for a while.


The firm, however, is not sitting idle. On top of recently completing the construction of the Action Center to End World Hunger, a first-of-its-kind interactive multimedia center developed by global relief/development agency Mercy Corps at Battery Park City, Mark tells us it's getting ready for its 125th anniversary in 2011, which takes some planning, including updating archives and collecting stories. Here, Mark stands with some of the photos, including a circa-1900 shot of his great-grandfather, grandfather and employees. Such relics not only help the firm, but also clients looking to put buildings and projects into a historical perspective, he says. Which you get after 123 years.

The market may be down, but find out what's up in Bisnow. Send your story ideas to amanda@bisnow.com

Arent Fox
Leo A Daly
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