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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Porter House

Branding existed long before it became a studied concept in business or a buzz word in the vocabulary of marketers. And rich or poor, there are many words that in and of themselves connote exclusivity, privilege, wealth and the special.

This was an explanation I have read as to why those of ordinary means often buy a very expensive gourmet food product, such as artisanal ice cream. Because at least for a brief time, they can enjoy the best of something. This certainly was the case growing up on the poor side when we would occasionally "splurge" on a food item. For my parents, this might mean a porterhouse steak, ordering "I'll take the porterhouse" as if "the" (as opposed to "a") conferred even greater scarcity or mythic status, leaving a child to wonder - was there only one porterhouse steak back in the kitchen?

I have noticed the structure atop another building in today's photo for some years now, always wondering about it raison d'être. This is the Porter House, a residential building which consists of both a conversion of an historic building and an expansion sitting atop the the historic yellow-brick building. The property abuts the Old Homestead Steakhouse in the meat packing district. From the New York Times:

The Porter House, a new condominium rising 10 stories above the rapidly changing area known both as Gansevoort Market and the meatpacking district, takes its name from the cut of steak. Completing the circle, that cut of meat had, long ago, taken its name from a type of building.

The 22-apartment luxury development on the corner of Ninth Avenue and 15th Street offers high ceilings, large layouts and asking prices of $1.1 million for the smallest two-bedroom apartments.

The lower part of the $22 million project is a careful restoration of a brick Renaissance Revival warehouse built for Julius Wile, wine importers, in 1905. Until recently the building was owned and occupied by a furniture manufacturer.

The old part of the condominium is topped with four new sleek full stories with a facade of zinc and glass that cantilevers eight feet over the top of an adjoining building, and two partial floors that wrap down on the back of the old six-story structure. The zinc panels are to be laced with vertical lights that will glow softly in the evening light.

The project will have 5 one-bedroom apartments; 13 two-bedrooms, some with studies or terraces; 3 three-bedrooms and a four-bedroom duplex with a private rooftop deck. Prices range from $735,000 for one-bedrooms to $4.15 million for the penthouse. Taxes and maintenance on a typical two-bedroom costing $1.3 million are about $2,700 a month.

The Porter House was named after the porterhouse cut of steak to link the marketing of the building to the Gansevoort Market, according to Bruce Ehrmann of Stribling Marketing Associates, which is selling the condominium units. The name of the steak, in turn, is widely attributed to porter houses, coach stops that served steak and ale in the 1800's.

Much as the restaurant patron who has saved for that dinner splurge, I'm guessing the developers were hoping that prospective buyers would be thinking, I'll take the Porter House :)


MaggieGem said...

Wow, very interesting project. You've done a great job in finding and communicating this change in the city!

Brian Dubé said...

MaggieGem - Thanks. It took me a couple of looks to realize this was one residential building. Although some of the architectural reviews praise the boldness and other artspeak, I am always concerned about how these things will look in the future. I can't imagine it will age well.

Zafran ali said...

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Jack said...

I have more hope for it than you do, Brian. One approach to adaptive re-use of older buildings is not to make the new additions pretend that they are an original part of the preserved building. Rather, make them from different but hopefully sympatico forms and materials. This building addition takes that principle to an extreme, admittedly, but I find it pretty interesting. I guess the tension is whether the new form and materials are sympatico or not.

Brian Dubé said...

Jack - you make the intelligent argument. This was once put to me in a very memorable way. I was critiquing the Louvre's IM Pei glass pyramid with an older architect. She simply said to me "what would u build instead? something in the same style of the museum?" I thought about it long and hard. I realized what she was saying. Any attempt to mimic that historic building would almost certainly be a failure. Pei studied this long and hard and most applaud his solution. The same reasoning that u offer.

Mary P. said...

Reminds me of the church front wall left standing all by itself on E. 12th St., in front of a modern apartment building. (I think you covered it.)
I guess the alternative would be to keep building new on the outskirts of town, leaving the center core to rot. Not a good idea either.

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