After fifty years of neglect the Empire Stores, located next to the Brooklyn Bridge, are now the most coveted waterfront property in New York. Midtown Equity has partnered with Studio V Architecture to adaptively reuse the 19th-century coffee warehouse into 380,000 square-feet of office, restaurant and commercial space, highlighted by a Brooklyn-centric cultural museum. “After the Brooklyn Bridge,” says Joe Cayre, Chairman of Midtown Equities, “the Civil War era Empire Stores are the most iconic structures on the Brooklyn waterfront. As a Brooklyn native who raised my family in the borough, it is an honor for my firm to be chosen for the redevelopment of the Empire Stores.”
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The $150 million project designed by Studio V has committed to balancing the old and the new. The National Park Service lists the seven buildings as a historic site, meaning all facades, interiors and architectural treatments must follow strict standards for its rehabilitation. Architects at Studio V have responded by preserving original facades, delicately crafting transparent interventions in select moments, contrasting aged-brick with the modern sheen of glass. “Our design,” states Jay Valgora, principal of Studio V, “combines historic rehabilitation with contemporary forms and materials to create an innovative new architecture for the waterfront.” The new glass courtyard and public rooftop park, offering an unobstructed view of the Manhattan skyline, is designed to bring natural light and air into the buildings and reconnect the neighborhood to the waterfront. The team has declared it seeks to achieve a rating of LEED Silver or better.
Recognizing the vibrancy of Brooklyn, the developers hope to lure local merchants, tech start-ups and restaurateurs. West Elk, a native Brooklyn furniture company, is among the first to secure a 20-year, 150,000 square-foot lease. For now, however, visitors will have to wait (perhaps enjoy the nearby carousel or stroll through bridge in the meantime). The project is expected to break ground in early 2014.