When it opened in 1915, the Equitable Building at 120 Broadway changed the real estate landscape of New York City — and the country.
Bordered by Broadway and Cedar, Nassau and Pine Streets, 120 Broadway occupies an entire city block and was, until 1930, the largest office building in the world.
The 40-story Equitable Building was so sizeable it cast a seven-acre shadow on surrounding buildings and streets, causing city officials to create zoning regulations that limited the height of new constructions and required certain structural elements to ensure sunlight would hit the streets. The measure subsequently became a zoning blueprint adopted across the country.
“It’s one of the most known buildings in Manhattan simply because it precipitated all the zoning regulations in New York City because it went straight up, there were no setbacks,” said Carlos Cardoso, a partner at architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle.
Not only is BBB located on the 20th floor of 120 Broadway, the firm behind the historic renovation of Grand Central Terminal has been tasked by building owner Silverstein Properties to bring back the architectural glory of the landmarked building and add a few modern amenities.
120 Broadway: A facelift 103 years in the making
Over the past century, the lobby of 120 Broadway has changed from a bright, welcoming galleria to something akin to a dark cavern where security points block access at its four entry points.
“We wanted to bring back the fabric of the building and how the lobby was originally used,” Cardoso said. “We’re bringing that back — all the ornate metal, the glass, the light. It’s totally going to transform one’s experience when you come into the building, especially from below.”
BBB is also bringing back historic replications of 120 Broadway’s original chandeliers with new LED technology to further make the lobby “more welcoming and calming,” Cardoso said, adding that new elevators akin to those from the old days are also in the works.
The Equitable Building’s facelift doesn’t just include restoring its past grandeur. Additional amenities will include restaurants and retail, bike storage with showers and locker rooms and a tenant-exclusive rooftop terrace with a lounge and café.
The rooftop space harkens back to 120 Broadway’s exclusive Bankers Club, which occupied the top three floors and closed in 1979 after decades of serving Wall Street executives, politicians and notable dignitaries like Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II.
“It’s such a large footprint to create an outdoor amenity, which is obviously something that every office building’s tenants want,” Cardoso said. “It was a natural path that we followed to make that space viable — and there’s not many buildings in New York that have this size roof footprint.”
Work on 120 Broadway, which is where Metro’s offices are located, is underway and expected to be complete by the end of May.