300 East 5th Street
Built in 1874, on the corner of 2nd Ave and East 5th Street, 300 East 5th Street encapsulated the spirit of late 19th century New York. Red-bricked and five stories tall, the building was accompanied with the classic heavy stone windowsills and traditional fire escape which would become standard throughout the city.
Having remained untouched for almost a century, a storefront renovation in what we estimate to be the 1960s or 1970s dramatically altered its look. The building bore little resemblance to its original design, which had been in the Italianate style. An inexpensive combination of precast concrete siding, and cheap, drab windows, had transformed what had once been a beautiful building into an eyesore.
In 2019, Open AWD was commissioned to restore the facade. Working alongside the owner, architect and general contractor, we set out to achieve their vision for what they felt the building could look like.
The scope of the project included the installation of a new storefront and cornice. In order to comply with New York City’s building code, and to meet our customer’s needs, we managed to maintain every detail from the building’s original plan, while also modernizing it to meet twenty-first century requirements. After much discussion and consideration, our team decided to proceed with a premium grade, triple-glazed, cross-laminated and white-oak structure to provide the necessary strength and aesthetics. For added security, we selected tempered, soundproofed units with thermal insulation and Low-E coating. In order to ensure that the doors might withstand the daily wear and tear of a busy Manhattan café, heavy-duty, German-made hinges and locks were installed.
In the process of drafting the installation drawings, we faced many challenges with regards to the existing structural columns, which had to be seamlessly integrated into one facade. In the end, we implemented a wide variety of framing, insulating and paneling methods.
One can imagine some of the difficulties in completing such a project in the heart of a busy district within Manhattan. In order to ensure that all work would be performed in accordance with strict DOB codes and safety standards, a protective fence was erected around the perimeter of the site prior to the removal of the existing facade.
The façade belies its complex and careful arrangement of multiple layers of paneling, waterproofing and insulation. Despite its inner complexity, we strove to ensure that the exterior remained sleek, elegant, and simple.
Leaks, deterioration, and mold are classic signs of poor workmanship. If given the slightest opportunity, water will always find its way inside. Waterproofing remains the most important aspect of any facade project. Therefore, we ensure that the utmost care is taken when installing our windows.
Although the project moved along nicely, and each day brought with it a new development, it was only after the installation of the decorative wooden panels that we felt the beauty of the old storefront had been restored.
Without a doubt, the most challenging aspect of the renovation was the replication of each detail from the original sheet-metal cornice. Replete with ornate shapes and curved surfaces, each of which intricately mitered and soldered, this phase of our project was subject to much discussion. Following the consuming design process, each of the individual parts were prefabricated and powder-coated prior to their installation.
With the benefit of hindsight, we know that there were certain aspects of this project which could have been handled more efficiently or effectively. However, each specific site presents its own challenges, and we felt it was imperative to do justice to this historic building and its owner’s wishes. None of this would have been possible were it not for the team, with whom I would insist on working again. A special thanks is due to the owner (Ralph Della Cava, Jonathan Pohl, Dustin Zucker from R.A. Cohen & Associates, Inc.), Architects (Norman Cox from Union Street Studio LLC), General Contractor (Stone Lang from New Practice Studio).