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The Woolworth Building was built in the Beaux-Arts and Neo-Gothic styles (Photos: panoramio.com, Wikimedia.org and museumplanet.com)

A century ago, it was the tallest building in the world. Now, the Woolworth Building, one of New York’s most famous landmarks, is about to embark on a new phase in its history, with the top 30 floors of its tower ready to be converted into 40 premium apartments for the super wealthy.

Multiplicity of meanings… To Frank Woolworth, it served as a soaring trademark of his empire; to engineers, it was the epitome of steel frame construction; to architects, it was a marriage of the Beaux- Arts with the Neo-Gothic; to tourists, it was the highlight of their upward gaze. But for New York, and specifically Manhattan, the ‘Cathedral of Commerce’ was the harbinger of its obsession with skyscrapers.

Detail of the top of the Woolworth building

High street living… If living in a limestone coloured, terracotta tiled building isn’t enough to brag about, the apartments will begin at 350 feet; penthouses will be perched at 700 feet. Expected to be completed in 2015, they will have ceilings up to 14 feet high. Amenities will include a health club, a 55-foot swimming pool and private high-speed elevators. The apartments will be among New York’s highest residential spaces with a full view of the World Financial Center and the rest of Lower Manhattan.

The Lobby

The heart of the city… A short drive south will take you to the historic Battery Park where you can catch a ferry to the Statue of Liberty; the same drive north will take you to the bustling art scene in Greenwich Village or the Tribeca Film Festival in TriBeCa; next door lie the high-end fashion boutiques in the Meatpacking District, “the trendiest place in New York” according to Time. But if you’re stepping out in the mood for an ethnic experience, which usually means Chinese or Italian food, the neighbourhoods of Little Italy and China Town are only a short walk away.

History repeats itself… When the Woolworth Building first rose up, it sparked an economic boom that led to what are now the Trump Tower, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. With the construction of the One World Trade Center expected to be completed next year, the area is once again witnessing a resurgence in development, with a new rail network set to be complete by 2014. The rest of the buildings at the World Trade Center and the surrounding areas will be completed soon after.

In a nutshell… There might be other, taller buildings in New York, but none compare to the awe that the Woolworth Building inspires. Apartments haven’t been priced yet, but they are expected to cost at least $3,000 per foot – approximately $7.5 million for a 2,500 square foot condo. Perhaps a small price for living in one of the most recognisable buildings in the world?

– Shayan Shakeel

First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 2, 2012.