Going Up: Upgrading Elevators is a Trend on the Rise

December 08, 2008

BY: New York Post | Lois Weiss

Dan Montroy and Richard DeMarco comment on elevator upgrades in the New York Post

SOME OWNERS are getting a lift out of this market by adding and removing elevators. These renovations aren't simply an artistic change of cab linings but sometimes entail creating an entire shaft or structuring a new or bigger lobby.

For years, former manufacturing buildings like Chelsea Market have been adding dedicated elevators decorated to complement the tenant. But lately, more office building owners have made similar moves to enhance the tenant experience.

"Putting elevators into existing buildings is a tricky threading of the needle," explained Dan Montroy, an architect and partner with Montroy Andersen DeMarco. "You are able to change the character, efficiency and layout by doing elevators in these unique ways."

W&H Properties demolished a stairway at 1333 Broadway to make room for new passenger elevators. This was not easy as it involved considerations for building evacuations, proper permitting to remove and relocate electrical conduits, sprinklers, standpipe systems and old staircase bathrooms.

"The freight elevators were all the way to the north and south and we couldn't incorporate them into the lobby," explained W&H President Anthony Malkin on why they had to do an entire shaft job. "We took space away from tenants, moved a fire staircase and relocated bathrooms, and made two new elevators."

David Levy of Adams & Co. added an elevator at 231 W. 29th Street and also converted freight cars into passenger elevators.
"A lot of these buildings were old distribution or factory buildings and were under-elevatored for showroom product," he said.
Oftentimes, the old elevators are taking up prime, rentable square feet, so when they are removed, the building can gain income. In one building where the elevators ran along a corner, Montroy was able to take them out and create additional offices that had views of a park and the river.

The office building at 160 Fifth Avenue is currently being redeveloped and modernized by its RFR ownership. The building had very small elevators with metal cages that were a century old, while its stairways were decorative and elaborate.

Over time, building codes forced the owners to enclose the stairwells while the existing elevators were tired and underserving the tenants.

An under- utilized loading dock on the side street was targeted to become the new lobby, while the old lobby, old elevators and portions of the stairways were closed, thus also increasing the amount of retail space available along Fifth Avenue. Two new elevators were installed and each is larger than two of antiquated elevators.

When office building owners rent the top floors, they sometimes also rent out roof access and then, due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) legislation, the roofs need elevator access.  Special elevators - called "Lulas" (Limited Use, Limited Application ) - are used in such situations.

"They can be hydraulic and fit into places you can't fit another elevator in," said Montroy. Since the advent of ADA, the elevator companies have seen a demand for Lula lifts. "The elevator pit is smaller, the override is smaller and they can fit into many more places," said Richard DeMarco, Montroy's partner.

They also cost one-third to half the price of a regular shaft job. A regular elevator costs between $60,000 and $100,000, while a Lula will cost between $30,000 and $40,000, DeMarco said.