Spring Time: Caroline Cummings Transforms iconic Candle Building

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By Sean Ballent

Developer Caroline Cummings has transformed New York’s iconic Candle Building into three spectacular residences.

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 “The level of detail in the interior of the building is unmatched. Plush mounted marble on the walls, limestone windowsills, recessed lighting, and double-drywall give the residences a step above the rest.”

The building on 11 Spring Street is more than bricks and stone. It has soul. And now, the 19th century New York City stable and carriage house that was once overgrown with urban art has been masterfully re-imagined into three exceptional standalone units: The Carriage House, The Loft, and The Penthouse.

After getting a graduate degree in fine art from New York University, Caroline Cummings needed a change. With a family in real estate and at the height of the market, she set off in an attempt to flip a NYC townhouse. After exhaustively looking with a broker at more than 50 buildings, she actually ended up buying the first one she had looked at, a gorgeous 1880’s carriage house located in Nolita. “Being on the eastern border of Soho, I saw it as the next up-and-coming cool area,” she explains.

The 16,000-square-foot brick building that Cummings purchased was a bit of a celebrity. Its graffiti-tattooed walls had been a nest for the rock stars of the urban art world. “Every time I visited, the façade of the building was different,” she says. Renowned artists Banksy and Shepard Fairey used the walls as their canvas. This intrigued Cummings. “These artists are the next frontier in what I believe is the most relevant form of art we have today.”

Before the building was cleaned for renovation, Cummings wanted to honor the building’s past while making a move towards its future, in a way that wouldn’t disregard the building, its cultural relevance, and its people—she organized a three-day show. The best street artists in the world were invited to take over the inside of all five floors as a final farewell.

In December 2006, the art show opened to the public. People waited in line for hours in the winter cold just to get a glimpse. “Artists from all over the world, who had only seen each others work in the cities they visited got to work together in sort of a homecoming,” Cummings says, smiling. At the end of the event, more than 10,000 people had attended.

After the event, it was back to work. Since the renovation was a larger project than Cummings had initially planned, she teamed up with Palm Beach’s Bill Elias, who did high-end and historical renovations on the island (and has sinced passed away). Together they created Elias Cummings Development and took the project head on.

 “If you build something with value, it will always have value.”

Now that it is complete, 11 Spring Street is something to marvel at. “We’ve gone above and beyond what condo developments have done in New York,” Cummings boasts. From the mahogany windows to the original stone used in the cement, Cummings incorporated only the best components in every last detail. “Because the cost of the building was so high, we had to build three large, very high-end units, and treat each of them as a custom home,” she explains. “The level of detail in the interior of the building is unmatched. Plush mounted marble on the walls, limestone windowsills, recessed lighting, and double-drywall give the residences a step above the rest.”

In a neighborhood that has tons of ground-floor retail space, 11 Spring Street has none. Cummings states, “With only three units, we were thinking in the mind of the buyer; we didn’t want the public prancing through the building. It didn’t feel right.” The carriage house, loft, and penthouse each house their own private garage, which spans 600 square feet.

Looking out from the penthouse roof terrace of 11 Spring Street you get that downtown, only in New York kind of vibe. Looking south, you can clearly see the Brooklyn Bridge. Turn 180 degrees and you’re tracing the top of the Empire State Building. High-end galleries, boutiques, and lively neighborhood restaurants dot the area. “When I do developments, I always want to be culturally aware and sensitive to the environment I’m creating,” Cummings says. “And when I purchase buildings I think of it in that way, too. They have to have a soul.”

When the walls of 11 Spring Street began transforming into a mecca of urban art, the neighborhood of Nolita took on a new set of colors. The brick building now stands in a new suit, its insides redefining high-end living and reinvigorating the neighborhood for another generation. And even in a tough market, Cummings stays optimistic. “If you build something with value, it will always have value.”

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