Interview of Real Estate Developer, Nathan Berman, New York
Why did you move into real estate?
The art market in the early nineties helped convince me that there had to be a better way to make a living. That’s what made me move me into real estate.
You specialize in converting office buildings into residential properties. What inspires you about this type of structure?
In buying an existing building facade and interiors, lobbies and common area—which probably couldn’t be duplicated today for any amount of money—I’m buying them at the cost of the land these buildings are sitting on. Everything that office properties find inefficient, I love; like tall ceilings and large windows. I believe they make extraordinary residences. I love the idea of reinventing something that’s already there. I call it remastering.
Do you have a formula for blending aesthetics with the type of historical architecture seen in many Financial District and Tribeca office buildings?
We really had no choice but to bring in all the modern conveniences. The style is what renters today expect to see in a new apartment. We didn’t want to create simply old-style apartments. Essentially, a renter is getting a brand new apartment with all of the modern conveniences, something they expect to find somewhere on 34th Street but in a building that is architecturally a beautiful landmark, in the case of, let’s say, 20 Exchange, that magnificent 57-story building. You obviously save everything that you can on the inside in the common areas, elevator doors, the lobby, and the stone, and the interiors are all modern.