Real Estate Weekly

The buildings at 100 Park Avenue, 1095 Avenue of the Americas, and 545 Madison are the latest in a series of “transformations” by Moed de Armas & Shannon Architects (MdeAS). And while the quality of the each address is recognizable, the buildings bear only faint resemblance to their former selves.

In a competitive market, adding value to a property and capitalizing on location, location, location are valuable strategies for a building owner or investor. And the “transformations” by Moed de Armas & Shannon (MdeAS) help achieve these goals at far less than replacement cost. They also provide the opportunity to add building efficiencies, reduce operating costs, and provide healthier, cleaner work environments, all of which are attractive to today’s green-conscious tenants.

“Every major city has only so many sites with prime locations,” said Dan Shannon, a partner in the NYC firm, “and, with rare exception, prominent buildings already stand on them. We help building owners and investors ‘re-envision’ these properties without totally demolishing them.” The Green Building Council estimates that when a ‘transformation’ is also energy-conscious, on average, owners can save 90 cents a square foot per year in energy and other costs. It is anticipated that several of these projects will qualify for LEED certification.

The re-design of every MdeAS project is different, responding to a variety of factors, including zoning, the age and condition of the structure, and the owner’s own vision. The common thread is a classically modern aesthetic designed to enrich the urban fabric.

MdeAS has applied its unique talents to buildings dating as far back as 1921 (340 Madison Avenue) to others as new as 1975 (1095 Avenue of the Americas, originally known as the Verizon Building). Original materials, including brick, marble, and old-generation curtain walls, have been replaced with unitized curtain walls, high-performance insulated glass, and ceramic frit spandrels, among other materials. Some buildings have been stripped to steel, others re-massed; still others have had new materials “over-clad” to the existing skins. 1330 Avenue of the Americas was completely transformed simply by painting. As appropriate, mechanical and elevator systems are replaced. All get sleek new lobbies and reinvigorated retail and / or public spaces.

An MdeAs transformation is almost always more than skin-deep. “Part of the process is to add ‘tenant appeal’ to the property,” added Mr. Shannon. As an example at 340 Madison Avenue, the MdeAS team superimposed a new five-foot planning module onto the building, making interior planning easier and more uniform. The team frequently eliminates deep radiator convectors to increase interior space. Additional light is another tenant-pleasing amenity. At 1095 Avenue of the Americas, the west wall was transformed from solid stone into complete energy-efficient vision glass, adding 20% more energy-efficient natural light into the space.

But the MdeAS portfolio is hardly limited to these transformations. The firm is the master planner and design architect for Gotham Center in Queens, and the design architect for one of the city’s new skyscrapers: 510 Madison Avenue. Its portfolio also includes apartment buildings, medical facilities, commercial and residential interiors, and a range of lobbies, retail, and public spaces including the renovation of the GM building and the restoration of its plaza.

“The G.M. Buildings is one of the finest modern architectural icons in New York City,” added partner, Raul de Armas. “But over time, through various renovations, the public spaces lost their relationship to the street. Our design replaced an unusable plaza with a pedestrian-friendly, street-level promenade and a sitting area softened by water features. It brought activity back to the street -level, reinvigorated the block, and became an elegant setting for the Apple Store.” The project received the Masterwork Awards from the Municipal Art Society of New York.

The MdeAS reputation is growing and the firm has broadened its clientele internationally. But don’t think MdeAS is out to simply re-clad every building. “Not every project is a candidate for re-cladding,” added Mr. Shannon. “Before embarking on such a project, it’s important to understand the building’s strengths and the client’s goals. Given a building’s historic and architectural qualities, there are some structures that should never become ‘new’ contemporary structures.”