In the Seaport, Gensler’s Pearl House marks the largest ever office-to-residential conversion in New York history

160 Water Street

In the Seaport, Gensler’s Pearl House marks the largest ever office-to-residential conversion in New York history

The transformation added five new floors to the 26-story office tower to yield penthouses with private terraces. (Williams New York)

The doors at 160 Water Street in New York’s Seaport district opened recently to tentative renters. The project, otherwise known as Pearl House, marks the largest ever example of an office tower being converted to a residential building in New York. Gensler partnered with Vanbarton Group for the endeavor.

Vanbarton Group first approached Gensler in 2020 to conduct a planning study for converting the 26-story, 525,000-square-foot, 1970s office tower at 160 Water Street into a world-class residential building. Gensler later proffered that 588 units with varying sizes could be inserted into its floor plates. The real estate group then bought 160 Water Street for $272 million in 2022 with a loan from Brookfield Real Estate Finance Partners.

160 Water Street prior to conversion (Google Earth)

“Pearl House is a testament to our commitment to innovation and community,” said Joey Chilelli, Managing Director of Vanbarton Group. “As the largest office-to-residential conversion in New York City, it showcases our dedication to preserving existing architecture while providing residents with an unparalleled living experience,” Chilelli said in a statement.

At Pearl House, Gensler has designed 588 residential units with shared amenities within a 1970s office building. (Williams New York)
Coffee lounge at Pearl House (Williams New York)

As of December 1, 200 of the 588 units have been completed and are now open to renters. Pearl House offers a mix of studios and one- and two-bedroom, market-rate apartments—45 percent of which have a home office—and penthouses with private terraces. Each unit has oversized 9-foot 6-inch floor-to-ceiling heights with large double-paned windows for amplifying natural light. Prices start at $3,500 per month for studios and go up to $10,000 per month for penthouses.

Shared dining area (Williams New York)
Sky bar (Williams New York)

The interiors use Greenguard gold certified flooring, and solid wood core doors. At Pearl House, custom kitchens have stone countertops and integrated appliances. Units have spa-inspired bathrooms with Italian porcelain tile, keyless entry door openings, smartphone-controlled lighting, Ecobee thermostats, Bosch washer-dryers, and blackout shades.

Residents will have access to shared amenities including gyms, coworking space, dining areas, lobbies, and bike storage. The conversion also added five new floors to the existing 26-story tower. It simultaneously carved three new voids into the building to remove less desirable floor area for the new units.

The 28th floor houses SkyHOUSE an amenity space with an expansive terrace for residents to enjoy and take in views of the Seaport. The two additional floors above are occupied by penthouses.

“Our transformation of this legacy office building harnesses the strengths of the existing architecture to create unique and elegant homes catering to the aspirations of Pearl House residents,” said Robert Fuller, a Gensler principal. “Through strategic architectural interventions – including altering building cores, retrofitting operable windows, and adding new floors with an overbuild atop the original structure – the team has catalyzed a metamorphosis that enhances the livability of the building and the greater Seaport neighborhood.”

Pearl House spa (Williams New York)

The conversion was made possible thanks to a city mandate, As-of-Right Conversion of Older Buildings, which makes existing commercial buildings eligible for residential usage. To date, the Adams administration has made office-to-residential conversion an important part of its platform. In August, the city rolled out its Midtown South Neighborhood Plan which seeks to rezone the area south of 59th Street to encourage more office-to-resi conversions.

The remaining units at Pearl House are anticipated for completion by September 2024.