Feel the Power

A Gritty New York Power Station Is Transformed into an Elegant Condominium Complex

For 100 years, the view from midtown Manhattan across the East River was dominated by the old power station in Long Island City, Queens, whose four tall chimneys were so striking that Georgia O’Keeffe immortalized them in her 1920’s “East River” paintings. Today, the building has been transformed into a luxurious condominium complex, which capitalizes on its glorious view across the East River toward Manhattan.

The PowerHouse Condominium is a $200 million, three-phase project developed by Brooklyn-based CGS Developers and Zigmond Brach and designed by the Karl Fischer Architect firm of New York City and Montreal, with interiors by Montreal-based Andres Escobar & Associates. When completed, the project will offer 447 upscale units, ranging in price from $500,000 to $2 million and in size from 500 to 1,500 square feet. Amenities include a full-service spa, known as the Aqua Grotto; roof deck (complete with private cabanas); gym and recreational room; and even a kids’ playroom.

Phase 1, which involves the reuse of the old power plant, already is complete and features 177 residences on 11 floors—seven in the original building and a 4-story addition. Phases 2 and 3 are planned to be completely new 12-story buildings that will complement the adapted old building and create a new courtyard between them (the developers are still working out the financing for these phases).

Old Is New Again

The original plan for the PowerHouse was to raze the power plant and build four new residential structures, according to Karl Fischer. After a community outcry, however, the builder determined the project might be more cost-effective, dramatic, and attractive to neighbors and potential buyers if the old building was saved.

“Looking at the building, it wasn’t difficult to imagine a conversion, but I knew it would come with a lot of hardship, which it did come with,” says Cheskel Schwimmer, principal of CGS Developers, which is also the parent company for the general contractor, CGS Construction. “But we always thought the project was going to work. People in the neighborhood liked seeing some of the building remain.”

Project Team

  • Architect: Karl Fischer, New York, N.Y., www.kfarchitect.com
  • Fabricator: Riverside Group, Windsor, Ontario, Canada, www.riversidegroup.net
  • Installer: Island International Industries Inc., Calverton, N.Y.,www.islandcompanies.com
    • Manufacturers: Aluminum-composite panels—Alcoa Architectural Products, Eastman, Ga., www.alcoa.com; Kitchen appliances—Viking Range Corp., Greenwood, Miss., www.vikingrange.com

About the Author

Kim O'Connell
From Arlington, Va., Kim O’Connell writes about architecture, sustainability, history and other topics for a range of national and regional publications.

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