The developer converting four historic medical buildings into apartments in Morningside Heights believes that features considered therapeutic for patients a century ago — access to light, air and views — are also essential for wooing future residents.
Four pavilions that were part of St. Luke’s Hospital, now Mount Sinai St. Luke’s, at 30 Morningside Drive, will be converted into about 200 rentals for the new owner, Delshah Capital.
John Cetra, a founding principal of CetraRuddy, the architecture firm handling the adaptation, said the layout of the buildings, originally designed by Ernest Flagg in a French Renaissance Revival style, worked in his favor because they were built like villas.
“The ceilings are high, the windows are grand and are very well-spaced,” Mr. Cetra said of the four pavilions built in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. “I’ve worked on building conversions that didn’t have much architectural pedigree, but these buildings are fantastic.”
Two of the buildings, the Plant and Scrymser pavilions, were originally used to house affluent patients and were designated together as a landmark in 2002. The Travers pavilion housed an outpatient facility and served as a dormitory for hospital attendants, according to a 1911 New England Journal of Medicine. The Minturn building once had a women’s surgical ward, according to the photo archives of the Museum of the City of New York.
Before the buildings were sold, Plant and Scrymser sat vacant, while the other two structures housed administrative and doctors’ offices, according to Tom Ahn, a vice president for the real estate division of Mount Sinai Health System. The new rental complex will take up the eastern lot that faces Morningside Drive, between West 113th and 114th Streets. The western lot will continue to operate as part of Mount Sinai St. Luke’s.
Mr. Flagg had just set up his own architecture practice when he was hired by St. Luke’s to design the hospital. But his work there later became a standard for hospital design nationwide, where, according to the report issued by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, pavilions were built symmetrically around a central administrative building and each building had a specific focus and was run autonomously to contain germs. Perhaps not coincidentally, Mr. Flagg was a cousin of Alice Claypoole Vanderbilt, the wife of the then-chairman of the hospital’s executive committee.
The buildings’ interiors will be gutted, and some hospital mechanical structures that are on the exterior will be removed. Infills will be built to connect the pavilions, while the entrance to the new rental complex will be placed between the Plant and Scrymser buildings overlooking Morningside Park, Mr. Cetra said.
Pending regulatory approval, there will likely be a mix of market-rate studios to three-bedrooms, of which about 60 percent will be one- and two-bedroom units, he said. The larger apartments will be on the higher floors, where there are grand spaces underneath the mansards, some with small windows.
Mr. Cetra said he planned to add more windows, which would make the space feel more like a room inside a Parisian mansion.
A 3,000-square-foot carriage house, which can now be seen from 114th Street and is in the middle of all four buildings, will also be restored and converted into a residents’ lounge, surrounded by a landscaped garden, according to Jeff Bogino, the managing director of Delshah Capital.
He said that even with the opening this year of the Enclave at the Cathedral, rental buildings on the grounds of the nearby Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the neighborhood still has a limited supply of new rental apartments. According to CityRealty, the median rental price for the neighborhood is $3,200 per month.
“With Columbia University continuing to expand, I think our location will prove that the neighborhood could easily support another rental product,” Mr. Bogino said.