The Weinstein Company office at 99 Hudson before and after the renovation, Photo: Camila Amaral
The Weinstein Company’s offices at 99 Hudson Street have sat vacant since 2018 following widespread allegations of sexual misconduct against its founder, Harvey Weinstein. The space has deep roots for Harvey and his brother Bob, who built Miramax from inside its walls years before TWC was created. Now, with their remaining assets sold off and Harvey Weinstein in prison, there are 13,000 square feet of newly renovated commercial real estate with a dark past up for grabs in Tribeca.
Earlier this year, Barbara Kavovit, founder and CEO of Evergreen Construction, beat out three male-owned competitors for the privilege of ripping apart the Weinstein Company’s former headquarters. “I felt that I was doing something for female empowerment by ridding the space of bad karma and the things that went on in that organization,” the CEO, author, and former Real Housewife of New York says.
The redesign of 99 Hudson represents what Kavovit calls “a #MeToo–inspired shift in office culture.” The new space prioritizes transparency, with an open floor plan and glass walls instead of opaque office doors. Although the efficacy of open plans—particularly for female employees—has been hotly debated, Kavovit’s approach represents a stark contrast to what she calls Weinstein’s “closed-off…gloomy, ominous space.” Bright light now pours in from multiple angles. She describes “a big open kitchen where people can hold meetings. You can be in an office 75 feet away and still see what’s going on in the kitchen…everything is very transparent and light to really foster a safe work environment.”
Barbara Kavovit, founder and CEO of Evergreen Construction,
‘I felt that I was doing something for female empowerment by ridding the space of bad karma’
There’s no questioning that COVID-19 has forced many to rethink open offices altogether, but Kavovit emphasizes the layout’s adaptability. “Whoever leases that space is going to come in and take COVID prevention to the next level,” she says, referring to the plexiglass dividers and additional glass walls a future tenant might install. As for the construction process itself, which started in March 2020, safety was of the utmost importance. “Personal protective equipment was used throughout the project, and everybody was maintaining social distancing, wearing masks, and sterilizing,”
For Kavovit, this project was about more than just winning a bid or crafting a well-made space. “It was a very emotional feeling for me because I look at myself as being a very brave woman who’s had to stand up to an onslaught of different situations over the past 25 years,” she says. “I felt like I had a similar trajectory to the women that stood up in the courtroom, so it was important for me to represent all women within the #MeToo movement.”
Working in a male-dominated field, Kavovit “knows what it means not to be taken seriously,” and she’s passionate about helping other women navigate the construction industry. That passion was clearly reflected on the Weinstein project, where the “star project manager is a woman and probably 25 women at any given time were doing electrical work, demolition, and sprinkler work.” She took videos on-site, she explains, “because it’s so important to show women that they can break through the glass ceiling and this old boys’ network. We just have to keep chipping away.”
Evergreen Construction completed the renovation of 99 Hudson this month, and the office is now up for lease by its owner, Olshan Properties. The question remains whether prospective tenants will be able to overlook an office space famously associated with sexual misconduct, but Kavovit isn’t concerned. “Knowing that there was so much determination and resilience and grit that went into this beautiful space…it was about so much more than just taking a sledgehammer to it,” she says. “It’s turning over a new leaf on where we were and where we are going in the world.”