July 3, 2019 – Steven Kratchman Architect, P.C. (SKAPC), of New York City, recently completed the final phases of a four-year, multi-faceted renovation of a 30-story cooperative on New Jersey’s Gold Coast. The project transformed Apogee in Cliffside Park into an ultra-modern high-rise featuring a dramatic entranceway, revitalized lobby and resort-style amenities. Built in 1972 and perched atop a hill at 250 Gorge Street, the property has panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline and Hudson River waterfront.
The repositioning of the former Briarcliff co-op began in 2014, when the Board of Directors hired SKAPC to rebrand the 315-unit residential complex. “We were looking for a highly regarded architect/designer with New York sophistication,” said Jerry Sher, who served as president of Apogee’s Board at the time. “The strategy was to find someone who could give the building a new lease on life, bring it into the 21st century in terms of look, technology and functionality, and ultimately raise property values. Steven and his team fit the bill perfectly.”
Steven Kratchman, SKAPC’s owner and founder, recognized that “the property needed upscale aesthetics and a stylistic Manhattan feel to compete with the area’s newer luxury properties.” His firm served as master planner, architect and designer of the project, using a comprehensive design strategy focused on exterior curb appeal and interior amenities to enhance the resident experience and increase shareholder value.
Taking a Master Plan Approach
Kratchman launched SKAPC in 1999 with the goal of breathing new life into underused and overlooked properties. Recalling his initial visit to the property, he said, “It was dated and needed a complete overhaul. A foreboding concrete barrel-vaulted canopy projected from the building’s entry and spanned the drive. The lobby, which appeared to be abandoned, had mirrored ceilings, black clad walls and outdated furniture pushed back on all sides.”
On the plus side, the lobby featured a large expanse of terrazzo flooring and was three stories high in the center and two stories high on either side. “In residential real estate development in the New York City area, it is rare to see this proportion of usable floor area allocated to open space rather than to apartment units,” Kratchman noted. In addition, considerable attention to detail was evident in the seasonal outdoor plantings and flowers.
The SKAPC team approached the project from a master plan point of view. They positioned the building’s three-story lobby as the project’s centerpiece, but also took into account the entire frontage, the building beyond the lobby, the amenities, and site-specific features of igneous rock cliff and sloping contours.
“Placing the lobby in this broader context allowed us to develop a comprehensive design plan centered on creating an eye-catching entranceway and inviting interior,” Kratchman explained. “We also considered inventive ways to refresh existing elements to minimize cost and maximize sustainability.”
Current president and longtime Apogee Board member, Hatice Dalton, said, “It was obvious to us that Steven cared about the future of the building and related to our community right away. He wanted to keep the elements that were already special and add features that made it even more unique in our neighborhood. We appreciated his empathy and strong understanding of our budget expectations, too.”
An Eye-Catching Entranceway and Inviting Interior
SKAPC replaced the existing canopy with a distinctive glass, metal and wood marquis, and added exterior enhancements that included a new driveway highlighted by modern pavers and updated landscaping. Inside the building’s oversized revolving door, the lobby’s terrazzo floor was seamlessly integrated with new features like custom furniture scaled to fit the expansive space and a redesigned front desk, relocated to serve as a centerpiece and increase concierge visibility. Introducing a large, two-sided fireplace as a divider and seating and gathering arrangements in warm, vibrant-colored materials created a sense of intimacy.
The lobby’s most dramatic element is a four-sided, double-height living wall that is visible from inside and out. “We wanted to extend the beauty of the building’s exterior seasonal plantings into the lobby,” said Kratchman. “The wall has a sculptural feel, and each side changes to reflect the exposure and light condition as people walk around it.”
Further fine-tuning included lowering the lobby’s high window sills to afford spectacular views of the area’s dramatic cliffs, and a stylish revamp of a hidden corner mail room that showcases the boxes like vintage library card catalogs. The fitness center was relocated and expanded, and a children’s playroom and management office were added.
From the outset, SKAPC embraced an inclusive process that involved ongoing feedback from Board constituents, management and shareholders. “We committed to shareholders to be fully transparent about the vision and progress of the work,” said Dalton. “The work required a lot of coordination and execution, and there were days when we thought shareholders would be upset about the length of the construction process. Instead, they waited patiently for the job to be done the right way.”
The reinvented and rebranded Apogee has become a coveted address with a sophisticated elegance and heightened level of luxury that rivals and even surpasses neighboring cooperative residences. “SKAPC created an amazing transformation of our property,” said Sher. “This project was a true collaboration between the firm and the shareholders, from determining the scope of work to the final outcome.”
Dalton agreed. “The results were better than anything I ever imagined, and there has been absolute excitement on the part of building residents.” She noted that prices jumped immediately, appreciating over 20 percent and still rising. “People are calling asking if any apartments may be coming on the market and real estate agents are excited about the value proposition in the market.”