The Louise du Pont Crowninshield Award
By Gwendolyn Purdom | From Preservation | January/February 2011
Tony Goldman has a rare gift: He can see the potential in gritty, dilapidated urban neighborhoods.
He has spent more than four decades bringing forgotten communities back to life, honoring their distinctive historic qualities and promoting their rebirth. And at 67, the CEO of the Goldman Properties Co. has no plans of slowing down.
Born and raised in New York City, Goldman attended Emerson College in Boston and began his real estate career on Manhattan's Upper West Side in the late 1960s. Eventually he was drawn to 26 blocks of cast-iron buildings in New York's then-dingy SoHo.
"I saw the architectural aura of the neighborhood," Goldman says. "The cast-iron district expressed a powerful sense of place that didn't exist, that doesn't exist, in many places in the world. But it was the historic fabric, first and foremost, that captivated my attention and interest."
Over the course of several years, Goldman and a group of investors purchased and rehabilitated 15 properties in the neighborhood, turning former industrial buildings into commercial properties with residential lofts. The opening of the Greene Street Café in 1979 and SoHo Kitchen and Bar in 1984 injected new life into the decaying district, creating a model that Goldman would replicate in locations nationwide.
"Establishing an architectural legacy is a roadmap to who we are as people," Goldman says. "Preserving our buildings and neighborhoods is more than just preserving brick and mortar. It's about preserving our memories."
Goldman's transformation of Miami's South Beach in the 1980s included rejuvenating the deteriorating Art Deco structures of Ocean Drive while opening chic eateries, galleries, and hotels. Today, after completing successful projects in Lower Manhattan, Philadelphia, and Boston, Goldman is back in Miami, turning a cluster of industrial warehouses into the Wynwood Arts District. Shepard Fairey, Barry McGee, and several other acclaimed artists have been enlisted to create colorful murals for the warehouses' exterior walls.
In the future, Goldman hopes to revive neighborhoods in Newark, N.J., and New York's Coney Island. For now, however, he is busy writing a book, creating a documentary, serving as trustee emeritus for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and trustee for Emerson College, spending time at his SoHo home with his wife, and—time permitting—working on his golf game.
Even a diagnosis of interstitial pulmonary fibrosis couldn't hold Goldman back. "I had a double-lung transplant two years ago and it slowed me down for a little bit, as you can understand," Goldman says. "But I am renewed, and I hope I have another 100 years left in me because I've got a lot of work to do."
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