This post was authored by Paul Beshouri.Photos by Nick Hagen.
As more and more new residents are struggling to stuff themselves into available Midtown rentals (only 3% are vacant), many readers have been emailing us for information regarding the status of all that tantalizing vacancy in the Forest Arms Apartments. It's a legitimate inquiry—the building hasn't had much in the ways of visible progress for years, despite being widely reported as a property destined for restoration.
We got in contact with Forest Arms owner Scott Lowell for some clarification and received some very positive news. According to Lowell, the financing needed to begin rebuilding in earnest is "Very close to complete." He estimates construction will begin in December.
Lowell originally purchased the Forest Arms after it was nearly destroyed by a suspicious fire in 2008. He watched from the roof of a nearby apartment building as firefighters sprayed thousands of gallons onto the massive, five-alarm fire. Although the fire had largely been limited to the building's roof and uppermost floor, extensive damage from water and smoke guaranteed that saving the Forest Arms would mean not only rebuilding the roof and top floor, but gutting the building entirely. It seemed unlikely to escape demolition.
"The previous owners wanted to turn it into a fast food restaurant or a parking lot. As much as we could always use parking, that would have been a tremendous loss."
Although the whole building is currently stripped down to its rough framing, it's obvious that the Forest Arms was no Motel 6. Ornate banisters follow a large central staircase lined in wainscoting. Additional elements were even found behind walls—small brick fireplaces, an entire stairway for servants, and components for the gas lamps that used to light the interior. Lowell once found a brick with the mason's initials carved into it, next to the year "1905."
When the dust clears, Forest Arms will contain 70 units, the majority of which will be one-bedroom. Several great features are in the works— a rooftop deck, to name one. In case you're still not convinced that this might be the most desirable living situation imaginable, the building also boasts two pre-existing commercial spaces on the ground floor, one of which is being outfitted to accommodate a restaurant. Lowell estimates the Forest Arms will be complete in 18 months.
Where most people saw a total loss, Lowell saw something still worth saving. Now, when people look at the fire-scarred exterior of the Forest Arms, they see something else, too: A place worth living.
· Nick Hagen Photography [Official]
· Progress Report: Midtown's Forest Arms declared watertight, vertical gardens installed [Model D]
· Up from the Ashes: Tracking the Forest Arms Restoration in Midtown [Model D]