Chris Bentley reports for The Architect's Newspaper: Smooth Finish. Planners mull the revival of a historic millwork district on the Mississippi.
For much of its modern history, Dubuque, Iowa, has been a city that could not catch a break. The millwork industry that built it moved elsewhere in the early 20th century, and later the Interstate Highway System passed it by, too, building I-90 to the north through Madison, Wisconsin, and I-80 to the south through the Quad Cities.
Dubuque languished, enduring about 9 percent unemployment throughout the entire 1980s. Since then local officials have embarked on a series of public-private partnerships to revive the Mississippi River town piece by piece. Their latest effort takes aim at the heart of Dubuque’s industrial past: its rustic downtown millworking district. Once the largest millworking district in the U.S., these 28 buildings across 17 city blocks sat largely vacant for decades.
Thousands of employees used to make the trek from the nearby residential neighborhood of Washington to work in dozens of mills and other businesses. That may not happen again, but Andrew Dresdner, a Cuningham Group urban design associate, said Dubuque could forge a new identity without turning its back on the past. Cuningham’s master plan for the Millwork District recently won the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Award for Smart Growth Achievement—a vote of confidence in an ongoing plan that has so far created 150 units of housing, 15,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, a 200-car parking garage, and substantial improvements to area streets. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named it a Green Lab pilot project.
The plan hopes to rehabilitate 1 million square feet of formerly vacant warehouse space, brining 1,000 new residents to the area. Those that have already come inhabit the Caradco Building, a three-story warehouse from the late 19th century. The namesake company is defunct, but the brick building remains, its inner courtyard turned into green space for residents of the city block-sized structure. “When you walk down the street there’s this glimmer of life from the courtyards through these huge, gracious arches,” said Dresdner. The master plan envisions similar transformations for other warehouses, with food co-ops, art galleries, and a solar energy company already moving in nearby.
The city worked with existing property owners to redevelop the area as a unit, opting to landmark the district so it could score historic tax credits. They also landed an EPA Brownfields grant to daylight the underground Bee Branch Creek, which Dubuque buried after a fatal flash flood in 1858. Along with permeable pavement in the alleys and a bevy of “complete streets” improvements to the Millwork District’s urban grid, the newly exposed creek should help reduce damage to the flood-prone Washington neighborhood, too.
“It’s going to reintroduce green space into some of our most historic neighborhoods,” said Assistant City Manger Teri Goodman in the EPA video. The plan calls for a public plaza in the heart of the district and improved pedestrian connections to surrounding neighborhoods. For those traveling from farther away, Amtrak is looking to build a new multi-modal rail stop in the area, connecting the Millwork District to Chicago via the old Black Hawk line. Work is supposed to begin this year, but may be delayed while the Illinois Department of Transportation and Canadian National Railway negotiate track improvements.
However they arrive, visitors will find a different Dubuque than the one passed over by the highway system in the 1950s. “I can remember sitting at the council table in the 1990s. The comment was made that people will never live downtown in the city of Dubuque,” Mayor Roy Buol said in an EPA video touting the district’s redevelopment. “I think as a community we showed that if you can develop the infrastructure, take your historic buildings and rehab those so it’s a welcoming space, you can attract people downtown to live.”
Jessica Dailey reports for Curbed: Inside Dumbo's Abandoned Empire Stores Before Its Makeover.
More than six decades have passed since Dumbo's Empire Stores warehouses served a purpose, but by the end of next year, the abandoned coffee warehouses will be home to tech and fashion companies, marquee retailers, and "the who's who" of restaurateurs. Developer Midtown Equities, which won the development bid from Brooklyn Bridge Park last summer, is currently giving the brick buildings new life. STUDIO V designed two modern additions for the top, as well as an open-air courtyard that slices through the middle, but largely, the two buildings, dating to 1869 and 1885, will be preserved.
The developer always planned on keeping historic elements like coffee chutes and hoisting wheels, and the commercial tenants that plan to lease the space (no new names were given) fully support that plan. Jack Cayre, founder of Midtown Equities, said many companies wanted the space as-is, strewn-about coffee beans and all. While that won't be happening, Curbed recently took a trip inside the historic warehouses, and suffice it to say that these will be some of the coolest office spaces in the city. The Empire Stores warehouses are actually seven individual buildings, which were built at different times as four-story and five-story structures.
Each building's faded number is still visible on the exterior. The shorter building is older, having been completed in 1869, while the five-story building dates to 1885. Engineers working on the redevelopment think that the schist used to create the walls inside the older warehouse was excavated from beneath the East River during construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened in 1883.
Both buildings will be six-stories with the new additions, and the four-story building will have a floor-to-ceiling open air courtyard sliced through it that will look something like this (rendering by STUDIO V). Cayre said they want "the new parts to look new" and juxtapose with the historic buildings. The ground floor will have eateries facing the park, including a yet-to-be-named Michelin star restaurateur, and retail in the rest of the space.
Every window on the warehouse had large black shutters which have been removed and tagged. Most of the shutters are falling apart and beyond repair, but they'll be used in spaces throughout the buildings. Many tenants have also expressed interest in having them in their offices. New shutters have been made to fit the windows, which are all different sizes.
Part of the second floor of the development will host a museum dedicated to the history of coffee. Artifacts found in the warehouse, like these stencils that were used to write on the bags of coffee beans, will be displayed. The original floors on the ground level have been ripped out in preparation for new flooring. The concrete bases around the support columns were added during construction.
All of the wood used in the original buildings is first cut pine. Since the building is located on the waterfront, a flood barrier system will be installed around the perimeter. This building, with its brick ground floor still intact, is still in the same shape that it was when it was last used as a coffee warehouse.
The upper levels have wooden floors and some of the best views any office could have. New windows will be placed on the inside of the building to not disrupt the look of it from the outside. Tenants will be able to have floorplates of up to 100,000 square feet. To make this happen, openings will be cut through the schist walls that separate the buildings. The rooftop is currently untouched. This is the top of the five-story building, so there will be a new office space here.
The addition will be setback, so this office will have a private terrace. The four-story building, which will have a two-story addition sits in front of the Dock Street project. The open courtyard will be immediately beside the five-story building, and a public rooftop terrace will wrap around it. There will also be a rooftop beer garden. The public rooftop terrace will look like this. You can see the brick wall of the five-story building on the far side, and the glassy two-story addition of the shorter warehouse. The rooftop office spaces will lease for $90 to $100 per square foot, a price unheard of in Brooklyn.
Midtown Equities plans to turn the spaces over to the tenants by the third quarter of 2015, and at that time, the public spaces and rooftop would open. Every retail space is spoken for, but Midtown Equities has not released the names of the restaurants or shops. West Elm signed on as an anchor tenant for 10,000 square feet of offices and retail space. They paid in the high $40s to low $50s per square foot, setting a record for the borough.
And here's what it will look like when the whole thing is done. You can read the whole article and see more photographs here.
Aaron Seward reports for The Architect's Newspaper: IN DETAIL> 837 WASHINGTON STREET.
Morris Adjmi adds a twisting topper to a meat packing landmark.
The design of the addition's exoskeletal structure references Greenwich Village's Street grid.
The orthogonal street grid of New York City’s Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 collides with Greenwich Village’s wickerwork layout at 14th Street. While everything above that mark is rectangular blocks, below there is a series of odd triangular leftovers in the urban fabric. The difference between these two conditions served as the primary inspiration behind Morris Adjmi Architects’ design of 837 Washington Street, a 54,000-square-foot spec commercial building developed by Taconic Investment Partners at the corner of 13th Street in the Meat Packing District.
The site was home to an existing brick building that was once used for the purpose that gives the neighborhood its name. Two stories tall on Washington Street, it steps down to one story on 13th and is distinguished by a two-tone brick facade and a now-restored steel canopy—one of the hallmarks of a district that is protected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Required to preserve this piece of history, but eager to wring out every bit of allowed floor area, Taconic asked Adjmi to design an extension for the top of the structure. Adjmi—who has built up quite a repertoire of expansion projects of this sort—responded with a modern addition that looks to the area’s high-design newcomers (High Line, Standard Hotel, Whitney Museum, etc.) as much as it does to its industrial heritage.
If the existing building represents the right angles of the Commissioners’ Plan, the rooftop extension expresses the village street condition. “The notion,” said Adjmi, “was to create a space where two buildings can coexist, rather than one being an addition to the other.” The expansion rises five levels above the brick building’s first story. Roughly square shaped, each floor is slightly smaller in area to the one below it and is rotated slightly in plan. This leaves triangular spaces outside of each floor’s divided light window wall, much like the triangular plazas found throughout the Village, which will be planted, drawing a connection to the neighboring High Line.
The expansion is supported by a structural steel exoskeleton—another High Line reference—featuring sloped columns that, like the building’s floors, twist in plan as they go up the elevation. While this expression does indeed resemble the way the Village streets veer off from the straight-as-an-arrow avenues coming down from uptown, it also created a structure that wanted to rotate and fall over. The structural engineers at Gilsanz Murray Steficek (GMS) were hard pressed to design an efficient and cost-effective scheme that would stand up against its live and dead loads.
Rotating each floor in plan opened up triangular exterior sections that will be planted.
The solution mixes a conventional system with custom elements. Conventionally, the building is supported by a perimeter moment frame with a braced frame core, which is situated at the interior-most corner of the lot. Custom elements include built-up plate girders for the spandrel beams that were designed to handle the stresses imposed by the torqued shapes while maintaining the look desired by the architect. The columns themselves are spliced at every floor, rather than every other floor, and rotated five degrees to create a twisting profile. Intumescent painted and epoxy coated in black, the sloping columns meet new vertical columns that run through the existing building down to a newly dug basement and onto a freshly poured matt foundation.
Having the majority of the structure on the exterior and in the core allowed the designers to only use three columns on the interior, opening up more useable floor space. This did create thermal bridging issues, however, and so non-conductive shims were used to create thermal breaks between inside and outside. To maximize floor-to-ceiling heights the engineers also staggered the placement of the metal decking, allowing them to keep floor-framing members down to W12s. Since the structure also serves as the architectural expression, GMS worked with Adjmi to detail the connections between members. “We worked closely with Morris to develop the connection details, doing isometric drawings and going back and forth on bolt issue, where we usually release that to the fabricator,” said Joseph Basel, GMS partner in charge of the project. “It was a great project and really interesting for us.”
Amy Schellenbaum reports for Curbed: Explore the 'Wilds' of Lost Structures in America's Northeast.
In 2012, photographers Daniel Barter and Dan Marbaix, practiced urban explorers and creators of spine-tingling images like elaborate horror film sets,traipsed through 5,000 miles of the American northeast, stepping inside forgotten asylums, old bowling allies, and abandoned churches (like the one above).
Using Google maps and the suggestions of locals, the pair tiptoed across unstable structures, avoiding hazardous materials, unauthorized homemakers ("You never know who you might bump into," Barter tells BuzzFeed), and other surprise inhabitants. "It got pretty wild at times," Barter says, "so much so that in the more destitute areas, our guide carried a Glock."
More photos, over at BuzzFeed.
Michael Cooper reports for The New York Times: Factory Conversion Moves Forward
The effort to turn a century-old sawdust factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, into an acoustically sound concert hall, recording studio, nightclub and center for composers is moving ahead, with organizers saying that they have raised the $16 million needed to finish construction. The space on North 6th Street, called the Original Music Workshop, has already drawn respected musicians and celebrities inside its weathered brick walls for concerts, even before it had a roof. Now its founder, Kevin Dolan, said that he had lined up what he called “philanthropic investors” to put up the money needed to finish construction.
It is an unusual arrangement. Mr. Dolan said that the investors would become part owners of the building, which they would allow the Original Music Workshop, a nonprofit, to use rent-free. In the future they could then give their shares to the workshop, sell them to the workshop, or sell the building. Mr. Dolan, 62, said this would reduce the risk to people who might be reluctant to put money into a new organization without a long track record. He added that the space could open as soon as the fall of 2015.
Jessica Dailey reports for Curbed: For 'Newer, Odder' Buildings, Historic Preservation Is Tough
During discussions of why the American Folk Art Museum, and its geometric cooper and bronze facade, could not be incorporated into the Museum of Modern Art's expansion, one of the architects working on the expansion plan called the Folk Art Museum's design, "bespoke," meaning "that the architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien fitted it so artfully to their client's needs that it won't meet anyone else's."
As such, preservation efforts failed to save the American Folk Art Museum, and MoMA is now demolishing the structure. In light of this, New York archicritic Justin Davidson takes a look at six other "newer, odder" buildings that may one day be (or already have been) in the same position as the soon-to-be gonemuseum:
1) U.N. Secretariat Building, by Oscar Niemeyer, Le Corbusier, and Wallace Harrison: Davidson notes that the idea of tearing down the building was considered when the U.N. created its masterplan for upgrading the site, but "the U.N.'s Vatican-like aversion to change—plus a desire to avoid the international arguments that a new structure would foment" ultimately saved the building, leading to a $2.1 billion renovation instead.
Nice to see such a beautiful example of Beaux-Arts Architecture is part of an Adaptive Reuse project.
Karissa Rosenfield reports for Archdaily: LAN Chosen to Revamp Paris’ Grand Palais
After a nine-month long competition, LAN Architecture has been commissioned to restructure and extend the historic Grand Palais in Paris. With the intent to “restore the building’s original coherence and sense of transparency,” LAN plans to revamp the 1900 World’s Fair building by resorting its unity and circulation, as well as the volume of its galleries around the Grand Nave and the addition of a new entrance court.
From LAN: The New Grand Palais: An Example of Modernity
To our contemporary eyes, the Grand Palais is both an idea and a symbol of modernity. It is a hybrid building in terms of its architecture, its usage and its history. Neither a museum nor a simple monument, its architecture has an identity all its own, centered around the notion of a “culture machine,” a spatial means for hosting a vast diversity of events and audiences that exponentially exalts the site’s “universal” and “republican” vocation. The restoration and restructuring of the entire monument affords us the chance to reinforce this aspiration. The coming restructuring foresees the implementation of a new circulation mechanism centered around the middle building, the restoration of the galleries surrounding the Grand Nave, the installation of a climate control system, the creation of a logistics center, bringing the entire building up to code, and opening the large bay windows and passageways in order to restore the building’s original coherence and sense of transparency.
These interventions represent a unique opportunity to re-discover the traces and ways in which the Grand Palais has withstood the test of time, survived changes in its function, to assert architecture as a point of departure, and the space as nurturing life and society. Even though the initial reason for building the Grand Palais was to provide a site for presenting and promoting French artistic culture during the World’s Fair of 1900, the plan nevertheless envisioned durability and flexibility from the outset. Even though these many adaptations progressively complicated and depreciated certain parts of the Grand Palais, the intelligence of its general form and its original spatial intent have helped it survive these episodes and change with the times. Our credo for the New Grand Palais is to complete and strengthen its formal logic through interventions that return a sense of modernity to its whole, all the while respecting its traditional identity.
To read the whole article click here.
Jeff Mays reports for DNAinfo.
The historic RKO Hamilton Theater may become luxury condos in exchange for the preservation and restoration of the interior theater as a community performance space. The possible deal comes as the owner of the landmarked theater, Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, led by real estate mogul Ben Ashkenazy, sought support from Community Board 9 for its application with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to build a connector between the two buildings that make up the Hamilton Heights theater at Broadway and 146th Street.
At first, Ashkenazy, who purchased the building along with another building in Washington Heights for $19 million in 2012, considered creating retail space for a company such as Burlington Coat Factory in the former theater, which showed its last movie in 1958.
But the board and Harlem historian Michael Henry Adams proposed that the developer build condominiums on top of the theater instead, as a way of financing the preservation of the historic interior. "Since the luxury towers are going to come anyway, we might as well get something back for having to suffer these banal glass boxes," said Adams, author of "Harlem, Lost and Found."
Recent zoning changes to West Harlem make the construction of a tower there more feasible. The interior of the building was never landmarked. "What we want to see happen with this theater is to see it redeveloped and become a community resource," said Arnold Boatner, chairman of CB 9's Landmarks and Parks Committee. "There are a large number of performance artists in our community who don't have space." The Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas, chairwoman of CB9, said the board would even support luxury housing at the site— often a contentious issue at Harlem community boards concerned about rapid gentrification.
The community board voted to support the new connector between the theater buildings, but with an unusually high number of abstentions. "If they say they will restore the theater, we will have to bend if they do all market-rate housing," said Morgan-Thomas. "This is about creating something that could be here 20 to 30 years from now."
The Landmarks Preservation Commission, which designated the exterior of the building as a historic landmark in 2000, approved an application last Tuesday to add an addition between the two buildings that will be set back from the street and clad in brick to match the rear building. That addition is necessary to make the building usable, whether it ultimately becomes a retail or residential building. One of the factors in the commission's approval was that the building once had a passageway connecting the two structures.
Jeffrey A. Chester, an attorney with Gonzalez Saggio Harlan-LLP who represents Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, called the residential plan an ambitious one that might be difficult to pull off for a few reasons. Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation is primarily a commercial real estate company. The company has extensive commercial holdings with multiple buildings on Madison Avenue as well as Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston. The company's initial proposal was to renovate the interior of the building for retail and leave the landmarked exterior alone. If the company decides to pursue residential development, it would likely have to partner with another firm.
Secondly, restoring the damaged theater would be quite expensive. The entire bottom floor of seats is missing and the building has peeling paint and graffiti after suffering years of water leaks and neglect. "The owner is looking at it but what they have proposed is extraordinarily ambitious and would require variances and approval from landmarks beyond what we initially considered," Chester said. "The question remains: Is there a viable market to keep that theater busy enough to pay for itself?
I don't know if a nonprofit theater group will pay the freight to make this work." Yuien Chin, of the Hamilton Heights-West Harlem Community Preservation Organization, said she envisions a dynamic organization running the space who would be able to create the high-level programming and financial partnerships necessary to make it self-sufficient. "I don't think it's a situation of 'build it and they will come,'" said Chin. "The demand for a performance and visual arts space, not to mention a banquet hall for dances and receptions, is already here."
The now-decrepit building and theater is worth saving because of its history, said Adams. Commissioned by vaudeville operator Benjamin S. Moss and theater developer Solomon Brill, the neo-Renaissance Revival-style structure was designed by Thomas Lamb, a prolific theater and cinema designer, and was completed in 1913. Vaudeville acts performed at the theater, using the space between the two buildings to bring in sets. In 1928, the theater was sold and became one of New York City's first movie houses.
Movies ceased to be shown at the 1,800-seat theater in 1958 and the space was then used as a disco, church and arena. The lobby of the theater was last used as a retail space for the El Mundo department store, which left a year and a half ago. The structure has been vacant since.
Matt Lambros, a Brooklyn photographer who gained access to the theater to take pictures in 2011 for his website After the Final Curtain, said he was pleasantly surprised to hear discussion about restoring the theater. "I assumed that one was going to go down," said Lambros, who has traveled the country photographing shuttered theaters. "It's still grand and in pretty good shape, so it should be easier to save than most old theaters."
Adams said there used to be several Lamb-built theaters on Harlem's west side but most have not survived. "These places survived close to 100 years and one by one they have all been wiped out," said Adams. "The Hamilton is one of the most beautiful Thomas Lamb theaters ever built and it should not be allowed to be swept away."
Zoe Rosenberg reports for Curbed.
New renderings have emerged for the Red Hook warehouse conversion at 202 Coffey Street led by architects AA Studio (formerly Adjmi & Andreoli), BuzzBuzz Home reports. The 130,000-square-foot factory space was purchased in 2012 by Milan-based developer Est4te Four for $11.8 million. According to the developer's website, 202 Coffey Street formerly served as a production warehouse for "high-end women's handbags that were sold on 5th Avenue in the 1920's." In a 2012 interview with the Commercial Observer, Est4te Four's Alessandro Cajrati Crivelli said that the firm intended to restore the weathered 1889 complex to its former glory.
UPDATE: The renderings pictured above and below are actually three years old, despite being posted on AA Studio's Facebook page yesterday. A rep reached out to explain that they are simply fun conceptual ideas. Rather than add any glass appendages to 202 Coffey Street, as depicted in the outdated renderings, the architects plan to renovate the building sans additions. That means there will be no new construction.
The building currently features wooden trusses and ceiling heights as heigh as 55 feet. In its conversion, the factory's existing courtyard will be opened up. The space will serve as a creative complex of art studios and galleries. The architect's design includes an eight-story contemporary building that "reflects the industrial characteristics of the existing buildings." It's a far cry from the vast, desolate warehouse we toured in 2012. An AA Studio rep said the renovation will include new contemporary windows, new steel doors, landscaping in the old courtyards, new concrete floors, repointed bricks, sandblasted wood trusses, and new skylights, all of which will bring the building back to its original state.