With its vanilla-white porthole façade, scalloped overhangs, and a rooftop element resembling a steamship smokestack, the former Joseph Curran Building, built in 1963, has presided over New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood for decades. Initially the headquarters of the National Maritime Union, where longshoreman and merchant sailors used to gather on the ground floor in search of work, the building was later sold to St. Vincent’s Hospital and turned into the Edward and Theresa O’Toole Medical Services Building when the union began struggling financially. But, then St. Vincent’s began to struggle, too, ultimately closing in 2010, and it looked like the building’s voyage was over.
That is, until North Shore-LIJ Health System stepped in. The company acquired the property, and shortly after hiring Joe Bolano as vice president of facilities and capital projects in August 2013, it put him in charge of the building’s more than $150 million renovation. The project is ongoing, and Bolano has been tasked not only with preserving the structure’s original maritime character but also fitting into it Manhattan’s first freestanding emergency center, Lenox Health–Greenwich Village, which will serve residents of Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and Herald Square, who were left without a nearby emergency-care facility when St. Vincent’s closed.
Bolano is no stranger to large-scale health-care projects. His team manages almost 12 million square feet of property, including 19 hospitals and more than 400 ambulatory physicians practices. Recently, he also oversaw the expansion of North Shore-LIJ’s Monter Cancer Center in Lake Success, New York, and the Katz Women’s Hospital in Manhasset, New York.
However, few projects in his 31 years of capital and facility management could have prepared him for Lenox Health–Greenwich Village. The major structural renovation is taking place in a highly congested area of Manhattan above a Metropolitan Transit Authority station at 7th Avenue between West 12th and 13th Streets. In July 2014, the first two floors opened with a 24-hour emergency-care center and ambulance service, and once the rest is complete in early 2016, the facility will have round-the-clock access to lab services and advanced radiology, and it will offer outpatient rehabilitation, medial specialty practices, and an ambulatory surgery suite.
“Typically, whenever you saw a full emergency department in the past, it was always in a hospital setting with in-patient bed settings,” Bolano says. “This model takes a small emergency department with its own diagnostic tools—such as CAT scans and X-ray machines—and puts it in a hospital department without beds. It cohorts other clinical services into the building and houses physicians who have access to clinical consultation with other hospitals in our network, like Lenox Hill in Manhattan. We assess patients when they come in and keep them in touch with care throughout the process.”
Rigged for Care
Repurposing the structure for medical use has been no small feat. During the first phase of the renovation, involving the freestanding emergency department on the first floor and basement, Turner Construction Company performed structural remediation to remove a part of the second floor and recreate the ground floor’s original double-height ceiling. Where members of the National Maritime Union once gathered to look for work, some 30,000 patients a year now receive care from a 150-person staff of board-certified emergency physicians, specially trained nurses, specialist consultants, and other health professionals.
Less Waste, More Recycled Material
The project team was able to preserve an impressive 89.4 percent of Lenox Health–Greenwich Village’s original structural components, producing much less demolition debris than is normally created during similar renovations of such magnitude.Additionally, more than 35 percent of the materials installed in the building were manufactured from recycled materials, and more than 15 percent of the materials installed in the building were manufactured or extracted within 500 miles of the project site. All this helped the structure achieve LEED Silver certification.
The project has required Bolano and his team to collaborate with a skilled group of architects, engineers, and vendors, including Perkins Eastman; Robert Silman Associates; Bard, Rao + Athanas Consulting Engineers, LLC; and Louis R. Sgroe Equipment Planning, Inc. (Bolano has worked with many other renowned contractors and architects, too, including Axis Construction and Bilow Garrett Group.) The build-out of the fourth floor for an ambulatory surgery unit, which will include six operating rooms and holding and recovery areas, and the partial build-out of the fifth floor for imaging services are now under way after a wall-to-wall overhaul of the building’s infrastructure
New structural steel, concrete, interior finishes, flooring, lighting, gas and electric systems, and a fire-suppression sprinkler system have helped bring the more-than-50-year-old building up to code and in line with New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene standards. And, the major internal improvements were paired with significant structural renovations, including a new circular drive for ambulance drop-offs, a new roof, and structural-steel modifications to accommodate the weight tolerances of heavy imaging equipment.
“Anytime we’re presented with renovating a structure with historic nature, it is a daunting task,” Bolano says. “Add to that the dynamics that health-care construction brings to the table, and there is another level of difficulty. The project required a tremendous amount of work on a structural level to support current use and bring the envelope to today’s standards.”
One thing Lenox Health–Greenwich Village does not look like is a typical hospital. Designed by New Orleans architect Albert C. Ledner, the structure conjures the image of an ocean liner, and early in its history, it drew the attention of the architectural community for its rebellion against Modernism’s preference for utilitarian glass boxes.
Because the building lies in a historic district protected by the State Historic Preservation Office, its renovation has been subject to particular scrutiny. Bolano has been working closely with preservation consultants from CANY Architecture + Engineering DPC and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, LLC to recapture the look of the original building and ensure compliance with Landmarks Preservation Commission standards.
“It would have been easy to build the facility elsewhere for a lot less money,” Bolano says. “It’s a testament to the people within this health system, not only for being good neighbors to their community but also for understanding the building’s historical significance to New York City and the maritime industry.”
When Bolano’s team first assessed the building’s condition, the façade’s ceramic-tile cladding—an earlier renovation not original to the design—was crumbling. His team removed the cladding and, using archival photographs for color matching, restored the building to its original finish. The team also replaced all the windows with energy-efficient, double-insulated panes to preserve the building’s historic mullions. And, in keeping with a Landmarks Preservation Commission mandate to preserve the glass-block façade on the building’s lower floor, Bolano’s team redid the exterior with new glass blocks with fibrous glass inserts to provide privacy and increase energy performance.
“Unlike other projects in very matter-of-fact buildings, people had to buy into the idea of restoring this building to its original likeness,” Bolano says. “The project wasn’t just about North Shore-LIJ and a contractor and architect; it was a true team effort.”