McKim, Mead & White’s Clock Tower Building in Tribeca is reborn as luxury residences
The meticulously restored lobby of 108 Leonard has double-height ceilings, a Blue de Savoie chevron- patterned floor with contrasting dark stone borders. Up the dual staircases, the mezzanine level has many intimate seating areas.
A building is a living thing. It may not have a beating heart, but like any of us, it’s never the same from one decade to the next. In New York, the Jefferson Market Courthouse turned a page to become a branch of the New York Public Library and the old Astor Library on Lafayette Street got a second act as the The Public Theater. And countless commercial and industrial buildings have found new life as residential properties. One of the latest to undergo this metamorphosis is 108 Leonard in TriBeCa, a richly worked, Renaissance Revival beauty by McKim, Mead & White.
Completed in 1898 for the New York Life Insurance Company and long known as The Clock Tower Building for the massive four-sided timepiece that topped it, the block-long structure is now a prime asset of the Elad Group, whose portfolio includes The Carlyle Residences in Los Angeles and 22 Central Park South. To revive the building and transform it into 150 luxury residences, Elad turned to veteran designer Jeffrey Beers, who had fashioned interiors for One West End, the company’s condominium tower at Riverside Center on the Upper West Side. An avowed modernist—whose projects range from Manhattan’s 40/40 Club to the Fontainebleau Miami Beach—Beers did not so much surrender to the 19th-century essence of the building as harness its “romance and magic” to create interiors with a contemporary elegance that speaks eloquently to homeowners today.
“I tend to gravitate toward tailored design and clean lines, which may seem counterintuitive to an ornate building like 108 Leonard, but it allowed me to form a unique emotional connection to the project and create a balanced juxtaposition between old and new,” shares Beers. “My parents were in the travel industry and I was fortunate enough from a very young age to visit iconic cities and historic, grand hotels across the continent. So, with 108 Leonard, it was a constant dialogue —how to honor the building’s history while simultaneously remaining fresh and modern.”
In the scrupulously restored public spaces —all marble and Corinthian columns—Beers installed streamlined pieces in shades of gray and black. “Our philosophy was to create an impression from the moment you enter the building, which is similar to the way we approach hospitality design,” explains Beers.
“With 108 Leonard, it was a constant dialogue—how to honor the building’s history while remaining fresh and modern.”
“We selected colors, textures, fabrics, and furnishings that complement the public spaces and create an appropriate preamble to the apartment interiors.” In the condos, where varying ceiling heights and a variety of window configurations add to the uniqueness of each unit, Beers blended Old World touches, such as chevron-patterned oak floors, with recessed lighting to illuminate art and open plan kitchens graced with Calacatta Vagli Marble. Says Beers, “We invested energy and time in balancing a modern and functional layout with decorative and traditional design details to create spaces that are conducive to modern living and entertaining.”
New York designer Jarvis Wong, who worked on the revivification of the city’s Art Deco Walker Tower, was invited to execute three model apartments at 108 Leonard. “You can’t design in a vacuum and when I do a model apartment, I always have a narrative in mind, an idea of who lives there,” says Wong. “With a three bedroom, I imagined a family with a young child, professionals who travel all over the world. For a smaller unit, I envisioned a single person with a sense of style who just got a good paying job in media.”
That approach certainly dovetails with Elad’s expectations for the building. “TriBeCa stands as one of New York City’s most intact, authentic neighborhoods,” says Shalaiwah Alveranga, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Elad Group. “It attracts a broad cross-section of inhabitants ranging from art enthusiasts and young professionals to families, cosmopolitan empty- nesters and native New Yorkers alike. Its deep roots can be seen in all of the surrounding businesses, from storied restaurants such as the Odeon, to the many galleries and shops that crisscross the area. With this vibrant neighborhood as a backdrop and our one-of-a-kind project offering classic details with a modern palette, we have given our buyers the opportunity to own something that is far from cookie cutter, a trait that is highly desirable, yet very uncommon in today’s new development marketplace.”
“Tribeca stands as one of New York City’s most authentic neighborhoods.”