Buildings within a city need to grow and change along with the evolution of people and what they use buildings for. With the change in use of buildings also determines the current trends for design that comes along with the new usage of the structure.

Adaptive reuse which means to repurpose a space for a new function is the latest trend on how architects, design planners, and building owners transform the deteriorated  structures of yesteryear into new and improved spaces optimized to meet the continuously evolving world.

The Meatpacking District in Manhattan, New York was one of the first places where this adaptive reuse strategy was used to renovate the old warehouses on the waterfront. For 100 years, this area had housed slaughterhouses and meat wholesalers until the late 1990s when trendier businesses and artists saw business opportunities in the area and started moving in.

Brian Rose wrote a book on the transformation of the meatpacking district called  “Metamorphosis: Meatpacking District“.

In the book he writes “In all my time in New York, I’ve never seen a place transformed so completely in such a short period of time.” The area now is home to retailer shops, cafes, businesses and apartments, many located in old industrial buildings. “It’s a really fascinating mix of the old and the new,” says Rose.

This trend of adaptive reuse to warehouses quickly went viral and just a few years later construction was already beginning on some buildings in the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) district in Brooklyn.

Top 5 Renovated Warehouses in DUMBO

  • Wythe Hotel
    • Built as: Textile factory in 1901
    • Transformed into: Boutique hotel in 2012
    • Designed by: Morris Adjmi Architects

The conversion from a 117 year old factory building to a 70 room hotel with skyline views was a $32 million project and became the first adaptive reuse for warehouse-to-hotel. This conversions great success has led the way for multiple more warehouse to hotel renovations throughout Brooklyn.

  • St. Ann’s Warehouse
    • Built as: Tobacco warehouse in the 1850s
    • Transformed into: Theater space in 2015
    • Designed by: Marvel Architects

This large run-down building on the Dumbo waterfront underwent a $31.6 million conversion to become the new artistic anchor of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

  • 1000 Dean Street
    • Built as: Studebaker service station in the 1920s
    • Transformed into: Offices and food hall in 2014
    • Designed by: Architect Annabelle Selldorf

This massive 4 story industrial building started its life as a car service station and then later served as a storage warehouse. After the building underwent a $30 million conversion it has now turned into into creative office spaces and studios with a huge food and beer hall on the ground level.

  • Kickstarter HQ
    • Built as: Eberhard Pencil Factory in the 1860’s
    • Transformed into: Kickstarter’s HQ in 2013
    • Designed by: Ole Sondresen

This former pencil factory in Greenpoint was converted into the offices for Kickstarter. The building now has a modern interior courtyard with glass walls to brighten up the offices. Two rooftop gardens were put in place to help moderate the buildings temperature.

  • Empire Stores
    • Built as: Arbuckle brothers Coffee Warehouse 1869
    • Transformed into: Empire Stores Shopping Mall in  2016
    • Designed by: Robert Silman

Empire Stores is another of Brooklyn’s converted historic warehouses that dates back to the late 1800s. The renovated building is now being used by tech and advertising companies. The waterfront complex also holds a massive West Elm store, Shinola and other retailers.

The Dumbo example of how the adaptive reuse of warehouses is appealing to both the creative and tech worlds and essentially created a community out of an old industrial pocket is something that will be exported in the years to come.

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