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William Beaver Building
15 William Street
William Beaver Building
William Beaver Building

By Carter B. Horsley

This 47-story condominium apartment building in the Financial District is distinctive for its unusual façade of dark gray and yellow bricks and for its initial marketing campaign of a tuxedo-clad beaver, the building's mascot, holding a martini glass.

An early rendering for the project indicated that stylistically the building falls into the "racing car/flying cab/Fifth Element" category of spirited but elegant mayhem.

Tsao & McKown is the architectural firm for the project.

William Beaver, 40 Wall and 20 Exchange Place
William Beaver, left, 40 Wall, center, 20 Exchange Place, right

The yellow bricks cascade partially down the facade from the top in random fashion. The base of the building is covered in ipe, a reddish-brown wood.

The building, which contains 319 apartments, was developed by SDS Investments, of which Tamir and Alex Sapir and S. Lawrence Davis are principals, and Andre Balazs, who developed the Mercer Hotel, 40 Mercer Street in SoHo and One Kenmare Square.

The project is known as the William Beaver House because it is located at the intersection of William Street and Beaver Street. It is across the street from Delmonico's.

SDS Investments acquired the site from the Manocherian family for about $90 million.

View from a couple of blocks north View from further north
View from a couple of blocks north, left; further north, right

The building has 10 duplex "townhouses" with terraces, three penthouses with terraces, 48 custom furnished units as well as many studio, one- and two-bedroom units.

Apartments have 9-and-a-half-foot-high ceilings, eight-foot-high windows, Burmese teak floors and washers and dryers.

The building has an outdoor dog-walking garden, a 30-person combined screening room and disco lounge with lavender chaise "cinema beds" and wet bar, and a Penthouse Sky Lounge with catering kitchen and private dining room and sun deck.

The lobby entrance has a see-through ceiling supporting a glass-encased, lighted outdoor Jacuzzi that is part of a second floor amenity center. The notion of looking up at people sitting in a Jacuzzi as one enters the building at the bottom has amused some posters on some websites.

The amenity center will also have a 60-foot lap pool, outdoor basketball court with bleachers, a squash court, a gym and handball and tetherball courts.

The building, which opened in 2008, has a driveway paved with the same marble used in the lobby, which has a large, oval, sunken "conversation pit" with fireplace, and the lobby is open to the public and offers prepared foods.

Kitchens have sliding backsplashes that conceal the faucet and sliding butcher-block panels that conceal the sink or cooktop.

Apartments have bathrooms that open fully into the bedrooms.

Early marketing renderingSales office model
Early marketing rendering, left; sales office model, eight

Mr. Balazs was quoted in an article by Steve Cutler in The Real Deal as saying that "We wanted to back off of an all-glass building and make it contextual, yet fun and somewhat distinguished at the same time."

An article by Julie V. Iovine in The New York Times quoted Mr. Balazs as saying "If you have children, go to Battery Park City."

The Manocherians, prominent New York City developers whose projects include the Caroline at 58-74 West 23rd Street, had planned a 38-story rental tower with about 345 apartments with a 100-car garage.

In the Manocherian plan, about 15 percent of the apartments in the project were to used for moderate-income" residents in the building and the project was also supposed to create "affordable" housing off site as well. Mr. Davis said the project does not involve such units.

Tamir Sapir is a Russian émigré who came to the United States in 1975 and is a former taxicab drive who eventually invested in a small electronics store and then bartered electronics to Soviet enterprises in exchange for oil contracts and then began buying real estate in Manhattan starting with the $2.3 million purchase in the early 1990s of a 20-story building at 80 John Street, which was followed in 1995 with the purchase of 2 Broadway, a 1.6-million-sq.ft. office building for about $20.5 million. Last year, his organization acquired Eleven Madison Avenue, the 2.3 million sq.ft., 29-story office tower that was originally planned to be about 100 stories and which can support such an expansion. The Sapirs also own 260 and 261 Madison Avenue.

On February 10, 2009, it was designated an offricial New York City landmark.  Its designation report provided the following commentary:

"Faced with simmering panels of natural color and black-enamel aluminum, H-shapped mullions and glass, One Chase Manhattan Plaza is among the largest and most important 20th century skyscrapers in New York City.  The project was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill...with J. Walter Severinghaus as partner in charge, Gordon Bunshaft overseeing the development of the design and Jacques E. Guilton as lead designer....Chase merged with the Bank of the Manhattan Company in 1955 and the new headquarters was planned to consolidate 8,700 employees under a single roof.  David Rockefeller played a leading role in the project; as executive vice president he convinced Chase to remain downtown and hire SOM, resulting in a 813-foot-tall slab-like tower that dramatically altered the skyline and character of the financial district....One Chase Manhattan Plaza signaled a new start for this historic area.  Not only did it stand out sharply from its older masonry neighbors, but the planning of the site, incorporating an irregularly shaped 2 1/2 acre plazsa, established a welcome break from the narrow, twisting streets that characterize much of the neighborhood.  Construction started in 1957 and was  mostly completed by 1961.  The south plaza and basement levels were dedicated in 1964, incorporated a 'Sunken Garden' by the sculptor Isamu Noguchi.  Resting 16 feet below the plaza, theis serene work of art is visibile from above and through curved glass windows that separate it from the bank's main branch located on the concourse level.....As hoped, One Chase Manhattan Plaza did lay a significant groundwork for a downtown reniassance in the 1960s, leading to construction to a succession of corporate towers immediately west, from the Marine Midland Bank Building in 1967, to the World Financial Center complex in 1985-88."

View from the west

View from the west

Mr. Balazs has long been known as a hotelier, but recently he has begun to branch into residential real estate. He was a developer of One Kenmare Square, a 53-unit condo building on Lafayette Street in SoHo, and he is a developer of 40 Mercer, a new 40-unit building, also in SoHo, designed by the architect Jean Nouvel.

While the initial marketing this tower drew some guffaws for its blatant appeal to a young, "sexy" crowd of downtown workers, it soon became the subject of some snide remarks on the Internet about its seemingly garish design. In mid-2009, however, it was clear that such remarks were largely unjustified. The tower clearly was not a major new architectural masterpiece but its seemingly random drip of yellow masonry cascading down from the top was a major eye-catcher that had considerable appeal. Granted that appeal might have been more had the masonry been glazed which might have given the illusion that this was a gilded tower, but clearly this was no mere checkers board.

Furthermore, its location directly across from the elegant low rise Delmonico's Restaurant building and the great Art Deco skyscraper known as 20 Exchange Place made this one of the city's most spectacular groupings.

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