GOWANUS — Preservationists are honoring a local landmark that went from forlorn to fancy.
The Coignet Building at 360 Third Ave. is one of this year's winners of the New York Landmarks Conservancy's Lucy G. Preservation Moses Award, which recognizes "excellence in restoration," the Conservancy announced Wednesday.
The landmarked structure was built around 1873 to showcase the marvels of Coignet-Beton concrete, then a new import from Europe. The building was a "pioneering example" of concrete construction and may be the first cast stone or concrete building in the United States, according to the Conservancy.
The Coignet Building is now up for sale for $5 million, and broker Cushman & Wakefield is marketing the property for retail use.
The restoration scraped layers of faux brick, paint and a heavy stucco-like coating off the dilapidated building. The structure was treated with limewash to protect it and the exterior is now a smooth gleaming white.
The once-derelict building sat alone on the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street for decades, attracting legions of photographers drawn to the contrast between its ornate 19th century facade and the surrounding desolate landscape.
The building's road to decay reversed when Whole Foods decided to open its first Brooklyn store right next door to the Coignet Building. The gourmet grocer agreed to restore the structure's rundown exterior when it bought the surrounding land from owner Richard Kowalski.
“We’re very pleased to have completed the exterior renovation of this historic property for our community and honor the commitment we made when purchasing our lot," said Whole Foods spokesman Michael Sinatra. "We love the Gowanus community and are very proud to be able to serve them each and every day."
Sinatra declined to say how much the store spent on the restoration but Department of Buildings filings indicate the job cost at least $1.3 million.
Conservator Mary Jablonski, whose company Jablonski Building Conservation helped design the building's repairs, said the building was "literally falling down" when restorers first tackled the makeover.
She said she was glad to work on the project because the Coignet Building represents so much history.
"It's a way too important building to lose," Jablonski said.