Tuesday, December 13, 2016
In February I took a quick look at the condo conversion approved for the Hutwelker building (655 Fifth) and the building next to it at 251 19th.
Last month the NY State Attorney General approved a condo conversion at 655 Fifth/251 19th Street. The corner building, 655, is known to many locals & architectural enthusiasts by its official title, the Hutwelker Building, and in earlier years it was used as a furniture warehouse. 251 was also used for light manufacturing, and a C of O issued in 1920 refers to the packing and storage of talcum powder. The two buildings have made their way into The Real Deal's Top 10 most expensive by offering price conversions for January. 655/251 have been operating as residential loft rentals since 2000 and were acquired by Time Equities for $8.1 million in 2013. Though earlier Real Deal articles situated 655/251 in Greenwood Heights, the newest article (2/8) puts them in another, dubiously referenced neighborhood:
"Did you know Sunset Park, the off-the-condo’d-path land of beef tongue and dim sum, is getting condos from major Manhattan developer Time Equities?"
Yes, we notice that fluidity of neighborhood nomenclature (throw in Park Slope & South Brooklyn if you're over fifty or so). Current marketing for the condos highlights the presence of the Art-in-Buildings program on site. The program, established by Time Equities CEO and art collector Francis Greenburger in 2000, brings art into the public spaces of its residential and commercial developments, "bringing emerging and mid-career artists to non-traditional exhibition spaces." This appears to have been a very successful program, offering exhibition space and publicity to many artists, but it is also an example of that unholy art/real estate alliance. You can argue, successfully, that art patronage is nothing new, and that many artists rely on it, but there's still something uncomfortable about its use as a marketing tool, and we see far too many instances where art is pimped out as a stop-gap or a sweetener in development encroachment. The current exhibition at the Brooklyn Lofts, Remnants, created by Israeli artist Inbar Shiryon, was commissioned specifically for the condo buildings:
Remnants is a commissioned installation inspired by the building's history as a furniture factory. Constructed from repurposed components of old furniture and cabinetry, each sculpture is imbued with layers of history. The stored pasts ingrained in each piece of wood come together in the sculptures, creating a collection of memories in this contemporary reinterpretation of traditional cabinetry. The repurposed wooden remnants act as a reference to the repurposed factory, which has been transformed into a vibrant living space.
The Brooklyn Lofts website describes the South Slope neighborhood as "rapidly becoming one of the most exciting areas in Brooklyn" (a shade exaggerated, surely?) and in a variant on the common term for getting more expensive, "bourgeoning." We like the Freudian slip immensely, and would love to trademark it. It fits the process perfectly.
P.L. Sperr, 1941