The View From the Penthouse at Bulova Factory

A penthouse cocktail party at the Bulova Watchcase Factory condominiums
A top-floor loft within the restored Bulova watchcase building was staged with upscale decor, food, and beverages to welcome the press two weeks ago. Such penthouses range in price from $3 million to $10.2 million. Carrie Ann Salvi

   Cape Advisors flew in the metropolitan press by seaplane last Thursday and welcomed reporters from the local media as well to a penthouse cocktail party at the Bulova Watchcase Factory condominiums. After years of speculation about the project, those with the golden ticket, like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” got a glimpse inside the model penthouse and a view from the rooftop.
    “I’m proud of what you see here,” said Nick Racanelli, who represented the third generation of his family’s construction company along with a team of builders, architects, designers, and developers. He grew up visiting the East End, he said, and always thought the old factory building was an eyesore. He “jumped at the opportunity” to take on its restoration, he said.
    The building was in major disrepair, worse even than the team thought, and it took six months just to stabilize it. But “things will now soar,” the developer promised. Expectations are high for construction to be finished this time next year.
    The sales office opened for business on Friday, though 19 contracts are already out or signed on units in the factory building. There are over 900 names on the waiting list, principals told the press. Factory lofts and bungalows will range from just under $1 million to $2.7 million, and penthouses from $3 million to $10.2 million. Three to six-bedroom town houses start at $3.5 million and go up to $6.5 million
    After several short speeches, newspaper reporters from across the state put on hard hats and joined writers and editors of architectural magazines and lifestyle glossies to be escorted through the unfinished factory. A climb up a few flights of stairs ended with entry into a long, airy, high-ceilinged corridor lined with windows.
    The visitors took self-guided tours of impressive bedrooms, bathrooms, and walk-in closets before ending up at the open-floor-planned kitchen and living room of the loft penthouse suite. Workers were visible all over the place, as  were water views through demolished or collapsed walls, blasted windows, and metal scaffolding.    
    Up on the rooftop, the press was treated to an elaborate lunch, along with a breathtaking view of Shelter Island Sound.
    Steven Gambrel, an interior designer and Sag Harbor resident, explained details. The mechanical systems, he said, were placed beneath a raised floor, which also made the windows closer to eye level. Mr. Gambrel designed the custom oak cabinetry, marble countertops, brick backsplash, stainless steel refrigerators, gas stove ranges, and dishwashers in the kitchen.
    The Bulova property, a Superfund site after the factory closed in the late 1960s, will include bungalows designed to resemble the small historic houses nearby, said Craig Wood, who took on the project about seven years ago with Curtis Bashaw, his partner. Above them will be town houses with three levels and an option for an elevator. Mr. Wood said those units will look like “little houses with picket fences.”
    Green building practices include the repurposing of 20,000 original bricks to use in the factory building. Eighty thousand pounds of walnut shells were used to blast paint from the historic beams. Some original beams were saved; others were sourced from old bridge trestles in Alabama and southern Virginia. Green roof technology includes landscaping with all-season native plants. Almost all of the condominiums offer private outdoor space — either a garden, balcony, or rooftop terrace.
    An old vault that once held precious metals used in watchcases will now serve as a wine bar within a luxurious lobby lounge. Three elevators will provide access to the lofts above. Amenities will include a doorman and a shuttle that will take residents to the beach and around town in the summers. Parking will not be an issue, with a spot or private garage designated for every residence, all concealed underground.
    Residents will have their own year-round heated outdoor pool, with chairs, towels, and beverage service in the summer, as well as a fitness room, a yoga-aerobics studio, locker rooms with sauna and steam, a spa treatment room, and a large lounge with fireplace and catering kitchen for private parties.
    “We have something that no one else has,” said James Lansill of Corcoran Sunshine, the real estate agent selected to market the property. Calling an investment in a unit a “unique historic opportunity,” he stressed that no two floor plans are alike. The units “will be collectors’ items,” he said.