By Carter B. Horsley
In 2005, Yaron Bruckner and Eastbridge N.V.
brought the 56-story office tower at 20 Exchange Place for $152
million and planned to convert it to about 800 rental apartments.
It is one of a half dozen important skyscrapers
that created the world's most romantic and famous skyline until
the advent of bulky, glass-clad towers in the 1960s.
The first phase of the residential conversion
of 20 Exchange Place, one of Lower Manhattan's most distinctive
skyscrapers, will create 362 apartments on the top 41 floors of
the 56-story tower.
Nathan Berman, a member of the joint venture
with Yaron Bruckner and Eastbridge N.V., has indicated that the
building's 130,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor
and four lower levels should be ready by 2009.
The 741-foot-high building was erected as the
City Bank Farmers Trust Building in 1931 and designed by Cross
& Cross, the architectural firm that also designed 570 Lexington
Avenue, originally the RCA Victor Building and later renamed the
GE Building, the same year.
"Clearly, it is one of the 10 major skyscrapers
in the city," Mr. Berman declared, adding that cleaning and
restoration of the building's exterior, an official city landmark,
was being undertaken prior to the residential conversion. He said
that its interior public spaces, which are not official landmarks,
are also being preserved and restored.
In their great book, "New York 1930, Architecture
and Urbanism Between The Two World Wars" (Rizzoli International
Publications, 1987), Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and
Thomas Mellins noted that "Cross & Cross replaced the
Expressionist allusion of their RCA Victor tower with those of
Modern Classicism, the style for which the designers were better
known and which had virtually become the vernacular language of
"The building," the authors continued,
"was erected in a remarkably brief span of time, opening
for business in 1931, one day less than a year after the first
steel column was put in place
.Housing two independent banks
that each required ground floor accommodations, the ground-floor
plan was more intricate than that of any other skyscraper of the
.the banks were each placed at prominent corners; stairs
led down half a level from Hanover Street to the fan-shaped banking
room of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, while an entrance at the
corner of Exchange Place and William Street led diagonally into
the lobby of the National City Bank branch, a glorious rotunda
sheathed in stone and ringed with red marble columns topped by
American eagles. The ceiling was a spectacular reinterpretation
of a Classical dome. Stepped concentric rings stenciled in black
and silver mounted up to a plastic hemisphere, a Machine Age oculus
that washed the room with lighted reflected from concealed fixtures
The building's bronze entrance doors are decorated
with images of vehicles and other modes of transportation.
"Although early designs for the tower
culminated in a gigantic bronze sphere supported by colossal eagles,"
the authors continued, "the final design
was a thin
square shaft with chamfered corners rising to a flat roof."
"Among the building's modern features
that seemed especially to impress the press of the day,"
according to www.nyi.net, "were an elaborate pneumatic tube
system, a building-wide circulating ice water system, a basement
reservoir of liquid soap, a new bronze substitute of nickel alloy
with copper, three-way duct lines, the largest telephone exchange
ever constructed, and a new-fangled double-decker elevator that
serviced two floors at once."
Mr. Berman's joint venture converted the former
headquarters of Brown Brothers Harriman to 476 rental apartments
at 63 Wall Street and also converted 67 Wall Street to about 350
Mr. Berman said that his venture considered
conversion to condominiums but is a "long-term player."
Avinash K. Malhotra is the architect for the
In 2008, the building was featured in the crime
thriller movie, "Inside Man."