Walker Tower

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212 West 18th Street, New York City, NY

Walker Tower
WalkTower-NYC-ExteriorAndEntrance.png

Architect's rendering of the completed conversion and the magnificent entrance door
Building Information
Architect Ralph Thomas Walker
Number of Units 50
Number of Floors 24
Year Built 1929
Construction Method Steel
Type of Roof IRMA
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212 West 18th Street, New York City, NY
Distance to Public Transit Less than one block
Region New York City
Municipality New York City
Zoning C6-2A
Title of Land Condominium


Contents

Background

The newly renovated Walker Tower
It seems that no matter where one turns in Manhattan, another treasure is spotted hidden in plain view. The 1929 Art Deco Walker Tower is one such treasure.

This 24 story Art Deco structure was designed by the prolific architect, Ralph Thomas Walker, famous for his 'organic" designs. Walker said of tall buildings, "The skyscraper, to my mind, is the only means … of living in this age of the machine. — “The Relation of Skyscrapers to Our Life,” 1930 Ralph Walker.

He used his skills and training in the Beaux Arts architecture style to create what he called, "humanized" skyscrapers. Using Art Deco ornamentation, he made Walker Tower a dramatic and iconic member of New York City's skyline.

The Art Deco style retained in four additional floors
This building was originally built for the New York Telephone Company as a giant call center. It was later occupied by Verizon until JDS Development and Property Markets Group saw potential in the building and bought it for a measly $27 million in 2007. It is an incredibly well-built and over-built building, the type of structure that today, would bankrupt any potential developer if they tried to duplicate the effort.

JDS Development and Property Markets Group then went ahead and spent another $200 million on renovations to convert the former office building into 50 luxury condominiums. A complete restoration of the brick façade was undertaken and an additional four floors were added to create some super penthouses, designed to attract "A"-listers.

A simple two bedroom unit may sell for as much as $13 million ... not for the "faint-of-pocketbook", for sure. But for those with the 'where-with-all' and want views of Manhattan from Downtown to Midtown and of TriBeCa and the Hudson River, this may be the place for them.[1]

Walker Tower is much better suited as a luxury condominium building than as a storage place for copper wire under Verizon's ownership.



Location

Chelsea, that's where. It's one of the most popular and desirable areas of Manhattan to live in. Chelsea is close to the Financial District (FiDi), it overlooks TriBeCa (the Triangle Below Canal Street), the West Village and Greenwich Village more to the south. The Flatiron District borders on the east, the Hudson River marks the boundary on the west, and the north edge touches on the Garment District and Hell's Kitchen.

The north view overlooking Chelsea from one of the apartments. Would that view ever get old?
Chinatown, Koreatown, and Little Italy are also very close by, for those evenings when a culturally diverse meal seems palatable.

West 18th Street itself, is a narrow west-bound (and quiet) one-way street. Just about any spot in Chelsea is reachable within a 20 minute walk, according to the Walk Score website.

Some of the points of interest for residents may be such things as the High Line, an elevated rail line converted into a public linear park, theRubin Museum of Art, specializing in Tibetan art, the Chelsea Studios, a sound stage on 26th Street since 1914, or perhaps a visit to the Chelsea Market for some interesting grocery shopping.

Walker Tower is only a few hundred feet from PS 11, the William T Harris School, and also nearby is the Manhattan Business Academy and also the NYC Museum School.

Chelsea has lots of theaters and venues for live entertainment as well. and if that's not enough, TriBeCa does host the annual TriBeCa Film Festival which has been running for several years thanks in large part to Robert De Niro for helping get it launched.

The neighborhood also features a broad selection of coffee places and bars, although it's likely only patrons of a select cosmopolitan inclination would visit the Hunk-Mania Male Dancers bar on West 14th Street.[2]


Construction

Renovations nearly complete

The old adage, "They don't make them like they use to", most definitely holds true when speaking about the Walker Tower.

The massing of the building consists of a very heavy-duty steel frame clad with concrete. The floors are extra thick and the walls are 18 inches thick. It is sound proof. One description quipped, " ... with walls so thick that Charlie Sheen could have a party - and nobody would know he was in." The floors can withstand up to 100 pounds per square foot. On that, Michael Stern of JDS Development Group who spearheaded the renovation, said, "You could basically drive a bulldozer in your apartment and your neighbor wouldn't hear or feel it."[3]

Note the craftsmanship of the brick façade
Walker Tower has been fully transformed into a modern luxury residence containing all the conveniences of upscale living. The building’s elaborate brick façade has been painstakingly restored preserving the intricate brickwork. Some exterior walls were modified under Stern's direction, in order to install larger windows allowing more light.

The building was built before the neighborhood was zoned with height restrictions so it stands above most of the structures in Chelsea. This affords unobstructed views of ... well, everything around it.

The ceilings soar to 14 feet and the extra light is admitted with nine foot tilt-and-turn windows. The structure is so strong, it had no engineering problem supporting the weight of four additional floors. The numerous setbacks in the building provide space for terraces, one of which is for common use. Naturally, the penthouses will have private terraces, but that's in the price tag.


Layout and Features

The larger the bathroom, the more marble it requires
Some additional modern conveniences include, but are not limited to:
  • Private terraces are available to more than half the residences.
  • 11 of the units have wood burning fireplaces.
  • It is a full service building with the services of a concierge and a full time doorman.
  • Each apartment has a built in zoned humidification system.
  • The air conditioning and ventilation systems work extra quietly.
  • Kitchens and the dryers in the building are vented.

Other items in the amenities package includes a children's playroom, a library lounge complete with pantry and a bar, a fitness area with a yoga room and a sauna, and the common landscaped roof deck. The roof deck has a dining area, a covered cabana room, a sun lawn, and an observation area to admire the fantastic views.

The units themselves have high-end fixtures using Waterworks fixtures and steam showers in the bathrooms. Floors are heated radiantly throughout, and floors are finished with French herringbone.[4]


Floor Plans

Nearly 40 floor plans exists for Walker Tower, the 'former-office-building-turned-residence.' Here are some highlights:



Amenities

  • Concierge
  • Doorman
  • Health Club
  • Roof Deck
  • Children's Playroom
  • Lounge
  • Designed by Ralph Thomas Walker
  • Art Deco detailing
  • Grand entrance
  • Handsome lobby
  • Spacious apartments
  • High ceilings
  • Pets allowed
  • Bicycle room
  • Package room

However, the building does not have a parking garage.


Bylaws

Walker Tower Bylaws
Rentals No
Pets Yes
Age No
Barbecues Yes



  • Pets are allowed
  • No records of any rentals have been recorded at this time
  • Barbecues on the terraces

Sustainability

With a complex renovation of this magnitude, numerous energy efficient products will be included, merely through the guidelines set down by modern building codes and standards.

Today's materials are generally safer than building materials of the past. Adhesives, paints and varnishes are more environmentally friendly and have a much lower rating for VOC (Volatile Organic Compound). These finishes along with carpets and wood products are much safer for inhabitants.

Ever smelled a 'new car'? Everyone likes it, but that is the smell of manufactured parts and plastics "gassing off" to a more inert state. It eventually dissipates. The same analogy is used here to describe building materials in the new homes.

New York City also has one of the most comprehensive recycling programs on the nation. The Department of Sanitation picks dozens of different waste materials. In fact citizens and visitors of New York must all abide by the recycling guidelines. It's been enacted into law.

Trivia

  • [5] - A video paying tribute to Ralph Walker's legacy - view this wonderful synopsis of Walker's life and achievements in the References Section a little lower on this page.
Ralph Walker, on the left, talking to fellow architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Ralph Thomas Walker (1889-1973) had a long and storied career as an architect culminating in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) creating a special award for Walker recognizing his extraordinary service to the profession. The New York Times ran a headline reporting the event and dubbing Walker "Architect of the Century".

But Walker's involvement with the AIA was tumultuous. He became the president of the AIA in 1949. His two year presidency saw the establishment of the AIA College of Fellows, which receive final approval in 1952.

Ralph Walker's own words immortalized in Neon
In 1960, Walker resigned from the AIA. A member of Walker's firm was accused by the AIA of taking a contract that had been awarded to another firm. This was deemed "acting in an unprofessional manner" and Walker was devastated by the accusation.

He published a booklet to defend his reputation on his own. It was sent to all members of the College of Fellows. He ended the essay with:

  • May I say, finally, that I have no illusions of grandeur; quite to the contrary, I am very humble in my knowledge that through forty years of my life my life has been an open book of service to my fellow architects and for the public good. When I sever my connections with the A.I.A., I do so with my own self respect, as a matter of pride and I am sure within your knowledge of my character. I completely scorn the falsifying, the sanctimonious, the cheap and the shoddy.


He was reinstated to the AIA in 1965.


Other organizations that Ralph Walker was involved with include:[6]

  • U.S. Commission of Fine Arts - appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Lavanburg Foundation - trustee
  • Citizen's Housing & Planning Council of New York - Vice President
  • Housing Committee - member
  • Planning Committee of New Castle, New York - Chairman
  • Architectural League of New York - president
  • Municipal American Society, New York City - president
  • American Institute of Planners - member
  • American Society of Planning Officials - member
  • National Association of Housing Officials - member


In 1973, ever the consummate professional, Ralph Walker forged a silver bullet himself.

With it, he committed suicide. Prior to his death, however, he destroyed his AIA award.

References

  1. Daily Mail - UK
  2. Walk Score
  3. Daily Mail Online
  4. Video link of Walker Tower features
  5. Ralph Walker - Architect of the Century - Video - credit to blog - "Walker Towers's" past uncovered
  6. Wikipedia - Ralph Thomas Walker


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