A boring bank space becomes a safe, stylish haven for the younger set
With roots in upscale hospitality, such as Eleven Madison Park and The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Sandra Di Capua and Anthony Rudolf, along with Jennie Monness, saw a gap in the kind of playtime offerings they wanted for their own children. Their first space, Union Square Play, set out to be safe, clean, and visually appealing for babies and toddlers. They turned to Sweeten for a general contractor with the expertise and communication skills they were looking for. With the right lighting and a bright fresh remodel, the partners bring baby socializing to the next level.
PROJECT: Union Square Play opens in Manhattan’s Union Square
LOCATION: 36 East 18th Street, New York, New York (between Park Ave & Union Square West)
RENOVATION TEAM: Sweeten general contractor
INTERVIEW WITH: Partners Sandra Di Capua and Anthony Rudolf
Sweeten: What is Union Square Play?
Anthony: Union Square Play is a place for local families. We both have kids and have been in New York for a long time. We wanted to have a space where families could come with their three-year-olds and under—a place to play, take classes, and get out of the weather.
Sandra: When we opened the play space, it was a result of us having children of our own and living in a neighborhood to find that what was out there wasn’t perfect for us. So we really built it for ourselves. You could drop in for classes, engage with other parents and other children, and most importantly it’s a place where children could be in a space that was beautiful.
Sweeten: How did your Sweeten general contractor help you realize your vision?
Anthony: The ceilings aren’t super high but we knew that making it all white and beautiful would make it feel safe, home-y and just, useable. That was really the biggest thing for us. We worked with the bones of the space and didn’t do major architectural structural changes. Our contractor allowed us to brighten everything up and make it feel fresh. He came in on budget, which was hugely important.
Sweeten: How did you come to Sweeten? Did you work with Client Services?
Anthony: It was our first time using the Sweeten platform. I had a contractor I used exclusively on four or five spaces that I’ve built out in the past. He came a little over [budget] from what I was hoping to pay to build out [this play space]. So I said, “Okay, let’s give Sweeten a try and see if we can find a new contractor.” Early on, Client Services helped us with the process. We got five or six bids in, they helped us with the proper timing and decision process, and when to go back and bid for more. Once we selected our Sweeten contractor, it was smooth sailing from there.
Sweeten: How do you think Sweeten could help other entrepreneurs like yourself?
Sandra: I think this process can be really intimidating. If you’ve never done a build out before, or even if you have, every project is different, and if you don’t have a super tight relationship with the contractor, or even if you do, you are always trying to figure out, “Am I getting charged properly?” “What’s the timeline supposed to be?” “What’s realistic or not?” With a platform like Sweeten, you get to compare different bids, get a feel for contractors’ past work and budget, and what’s feeling out of my comfort zone or what’s feeling on point?
Anthony: It was also just getting to meet as many people as we got to meet through the platform; I think in one day we had eight people come through, which was just insane. The amount of effort it would take you to find, source, and schedule eight appointments is a lot.
Check out Sandra and Anthony’s video:
Sweeten: What was important for you to find in a general contractor?
Anthony: Communication style and having good camaraderie. The relationship is critically important. I think that’s where our Sweeten contractor thrived. On the commercial side, there is typically capital investment that needs to get a return and every dollar counts. So we needed to get [to the end of the renovation] as fast as possible to start making money and start paying it back. We needed to do it as efficiently as possible. Not only was the contractor on site and knew the light fixtures and the nuts and bolts, but his partner was office-based and was our main point of contact where we were able to go back and forth. Things not only moved faster, but stayed on budget and we got the paperwork through very quickly.
Union Square Play offers classes from Music & Mandarin and “bubble music” to making your own playdough. Make the play date!
Check out another Sweeten commercial renovation: Lakou Café in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.