Photographs: contributed by Asher Almonacy
Above: The original brick and many architectural details were preserved from the historic building.
A strong vision is key to great architecture, so it’s fitting that architect Rich Granoff transformed a ninety-year-old utility-company building into a sleek, industrial 30,000-square-foot office that has become his firm’s headquarters. The old CL&P building on Railroad Avenue may not have caught the average person’s eye, but Rich saw potential in its giant windows, amazing light and brick walls when he purchased the building three years ago. “I’d been looking to buy a building in Greenwich for ten years,” he recalls. “It was a big financial commitment. I took the risk and I think it’s going to have a happy ending.”
After growing his business in Greenwich over nearly three decades, he wanted a space to accommodate his team of twenty-four whose services extend to interior design and landscape architecture. With projects like the River House Adult Day Center and Restoration Hardware Gallery (the former Greenwich Avenue Post Office) under his cap, Rich is no stranger to the challenges of working on older buildings. He applied to the state to receive a historic designation for 330 Railroad Avenue. Following a gut renovation, the building now has a new roof, mechanicals and elevator, plus new tenants and landmark status.
“It’s basically a brand-new building in the shell of a ninety-year-old building. That’s what adaptive reuse is, it’s like restoring an antique car,” Rich says. “The idea was to keep as much of the original architecture as possible—the open space, the brick walls, exposed ceiling, the concrete floors—trying to keep the industrial grit. Then we added modern touches like the book library and materials library.” The finished building, which houses several businesses in addition to Granoff Architects, earned Rich and his partner Jeffrey B. Mendell, principal of Greenwich Development Partners, the 2018 Leadership Award for Preservation, being presented to them this month by the Greenwich Preservation Trust.
We toured the new building to check out some of its cool features
1 GREEN SPACE
Inside the entry, a living wall of 1,100 plants greets visitors. Six species of plants that grow in a colorful pattern stay green and healthy via a built-in irrigation system. The plants clean the air in the office and also make it social media-friendly, serving as a fun backdrop for photos taken at parties and fundraisers held at the office.
2 FLEX TIME
The largest conference room in the building features floor-to-ceiling folding glass doors that can enclose the space for meetings and open up for events; Rich hosts parties regularly and invites nonprofits such as Kids in Crisis and UJA-JCC of Greenwich to hold their charitable events here. Surround-sound speakers pipe in music throughout the office. A giant blackboard wall at one end of the conference room is primed for meeting notes or doodles from guests.
3 WINDOW SHOPPING
All 100 windows in the building needed to be replaced, with new steel lintels for each one. This was the single biggest expense of the renovation. For energy efficiency and optimum natural light without glare on computers, the blinds on the new windows raise and lower automatically depending on the time of day and location of the sun.
4 Materials Matters
“It’s hard to specify certain surfaces just by seeing them online,” says Rich. So he created a large materials library, its walls stocked with samples of the most current collections of wall coverings, carpet, tiles and wood, such as a living-edge oak from Poland that he recently spec’d for the café counter on the building’s second floor.
5 INDOOR PARKING
The lowest level of the building contains an indoor parking garage with eighteen spots, including a Tesla charging station. “It was a big selling point for the building,” he says.
6 ULTIMATE BREAK ROOM
File it under “only in Greenwich,” the most unusual office space in the building has been leased to some local hedge funders. The high-ceilinged rooms house a golf simulator as well as a lounge with 100-inch video screen, bar and small kitchen. It’s a place for high-stakes finance guys to blow off steam when they’re not working.
Fifty percent of Granoff Architects’ business involves commercial projects and interior design for businesses. Recent projects include a 60,000-square-foot building on West Putnam Avenue, with a gut renovation, interior design and landscape work, for L Catterton and an ongoing 30,000-square-foot space for Tudor Investments in Stamford. Rich shared some of the trends he’s seeing in commercial spaces and how they’re reflected in his own building.
The second floor of the new Granoff building will be dedicated to coworking. “That’s definitely a trend in the real estate world,” Rich notes of the flexible style of offices pioneered by We Work. He has leased the space to Greenwich locals who have founded a coworking company called Work Well Win (as of press time a name change was in the works) that’s geared toward the higher end of the market and financial services. “It’s going to be a really sharp space,” says Rich. “The model is, you can rent a seat, a desk, an office and/or a conference room for a day, a week, a month, a year.” The coworking model can help start-up businesses secure a Greenwich address and open without the longer-term lease commitment while they grow and expand.
We’re all working so much these days that people are looking for more home comforts at the office. This calls for residential elements, such as furniture and lighting fixtures, more like what you’d see in a home dining room or living room. In Rich’s corner office, a Moroso sofa designed by Daniel Libeskind sits opposite a sit-stand desk (all desks in the office have ‘standing’ capability) and under a contemporary Italian Luceplan chandelier made with thin Fresnel lenses that multiply the light.
With its open ceilings, exposed brick walls, and exposed duct work and polished concrete floors, the building epitomizes industrial style. Rich notes, “I think the open space fosters communication and collaboration, which is so important in a creative field.”
Eco-friendly elements continue to be popular in all new buildings. Here, Granoff sourced natural materials, such as wool carpet throughout, LED lighting and low-flow water fixtures. The repurposing of an old structure and preserving all the old bricks and floors make the building inherently green.