When George Comfort & Sons decided to remodel the drab 1960s office building at 135 West 50th Street, the business owner asked Gensler to renovate the dark facade and lobby of the 25-story tower.
The Emery Roth & Sons designed building between Seventh Avenue and Avenue des Amériques now sports windows you can actually see through, a double-height lobby and a second-floor amenity center with retractable glass doors and a terrace. Charged rents for the building, which is about 40% leased, range from $ 67 to $ 75 per square foot.
Work on the 925,000 square foot tower began in the summer of 2019 and continued through 2020, with construction ending in the spring of 2021. Peter Duncan, President and CEO of George Comfort & Sons , explained that the company decided to renovate the tower because it had a few large subleases that were due to expire in 2019 and 2020.
“We had to make a drastic change to this building to meet today’s market,” Duncan said. “We made these changes and we kept Mazars, an accounting firm, which occupied 90,000 square feet.”
A mid-way pedestrian corridor known as “6½ Avenue” crosses a few office buildings to the north and ends on the other side of the street. Duncan said he wanted to bring that sense of continuity to 135 West 50th Street as well.
“Downstairs, we tried to take a typical office lobby and create connectivity from 50th to 51st Street,” he explained. “We wanted to create the impression that 6½ Avenue ran through our building. “
The new lobby runs the length of the building from north to south, with a bright gray and white elevator lobby in the middle. The main entrance on 50th Street features a new double-height space with warm woodwork on the ceiling; a large staircase lined with perforated metal panels; an open mezzanine on the second floor which leads to the leisure area; and two massive and reinforced structural columns integrated into the design of a long white reception desk.
The property also received improvements to the heating and cooling system, contactless destination dispatch elevators, new bathrooms and new terraces on the top four floors.
Joe Lauro, one of the general managers of Gensler’s New York office, noted that the building was a “mid-block property that didn’t really have a front door or street presence. He had a pretty decent ground plate [that] once you tie it to 6½ Avenue it might have a presence.
Lauro and the project’s architect, EJ Chung of Gensler, said the building’s curtain wall was essentially raised on the third floor and the first two floors had been opened. The ground floor has been covered with illuminated black columns at the front and recessed glass, while the second floor has been transformed into a terrace with sliding glass doors.
The 20,000-square-foot amenity center, operated by coworking company Industrious, features meeting rooms large and small, a coffee bar, and an open lounge with plush seating that faces the terrace. The living room has somewhat unusual furnishings – white and oval sofas and semi-circular chairs, as well as a round and white ottoman.
Industrious also operates a 30,000 square foot flexible office space adjacent to the amenity center.