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Born-Again Buildings

(September 2014) posted on Mon Sep 22, 2014

Why adaptive reuse (AR) projects are all the rage these days.

By Matthew Hall

Over the past several months, I’ve received a seemingly endless stream of announcements about existing commercial properties being turned into hotels and other hospitality venues. While office buildings may be the prime targets for AR, other types of structures are also being given new leases on life. For example, this past summer, a century-old former federal courthouse in Tampa, Fla., re-entered the local scene as a 130-key Le Méridien hotel.

In renovating that property, many of its existing architectural elements were preserved and updated, including the marble and terrazzo lobby, as well as the oak door frames and window casings throughout the building. “Our design approach for Le Méridien Tampa—juxtaposing the old with the new in a nod to our mid-century roots—lends itself well to adaptive reuse projects such as this one,” said Brian Povinelli, global brand leader for Le Méridien and Westin Hotels at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

Another interesting AR project is Aparium Hotel Group’s plans to redevelop the historic Detroit Fire Department headquarters into The Foundation Hotel, an independent, 100-key upscale property that’s slated to open late next year. The redesign of the hotel’s ground floor will include the creation of a restaurant in its former fire engine hall, as well as retail space showcasing Detroit- and Michigan-based firms. “The Foundation Hotel will be an inspiring and transcendent place—a true reflection of what is happening in Detroit, a city rich in history, art, architecture and culture,” said Mario Tricoci, Aparium’s ceo/managing partner.

To unearth the economic and demographic factors that are driving the AR trend, as well as to delve into the special challenges such conversions present to designers, I interviewed a trio of experts who are doing some noteworthy work in this sector. They are:
• Jim Stapleton of FRCH Design Worldwide, which recently served as design architect for the conversion of a former bank building in downtown Cincinnati into a Renaissance Hotel.
• Michelle Bové of GrizForm Design Architects, whose AR projects in and around Washington, D.C., include the Agua 301, Doi Moi and Iron Gate restaurants.
• John C. (Jack) Portman III of John Portman & Associates, which is creating a Hotel Indigo in the lower floors of an Atlanta office building that the Portman firm originally designed a half-century ago. (Talk about bringing things full circle!)

Their insights into the AR phenomenon are detailed in the “Urban Renewal” feature in the current edition of Boutique Design. Read it and reap.


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