All over the U.S., developers, architects, environmentalists, history buffs, employers, renters, homeowners and countless others are coming to one realization. Few projects have the ability to transform urban environments like adaptive reuse. The adaptive reuse method is a sustainable way to create new developments. This method also saves developers from the costs of demolishing old buildings. It allows older buildings that have been vacant for many years to be put back into use. Because structures built before 1950 were built for a much less automobile-dependent society, adaptive reuse projects tend to restore density and encourage walking within the districts where they’re located.
Adaptive reuse also allows urban areas to retain historic character and a sense of place. And for an office tenant or a home buyer, work or home life in a converted building confers a whole different and authentic kind of ambience.
For these reasons and still others, many eyes have been focused on Brooklyn’s Williamsburg waterfront, where a one-time Domino sugar factory has been transformed through adaptive reuse into a new property called The Refinery at Domino. The 460,000-square foot all-electric, Class A office building opened today, September 27. Brooklyn-based Two Trees Management, in partnership with Practice for Architecture and Urbanism’s (PAU), created a glass structure within the historic brick façade of the building. Within the building, a large-scale living landscape seamlessly links to the surrounding natural elements and greenery.
“Converting the old factory into an all-electric office building is a key part of Two Trees’ plan for Domino’s mixed-use community,” says Dave Lombino, Two Trees’ managing director, external affairs. “Our careful revitalization of the former Domino Sugar Factory into a Class A office space enabled us to create a sustainable workplace of the future, while paying homage to New York City’s rich history.”
The Refinery at Domino takes its place alongside some of the nation’s highest-profile adaptive reuse projects. The old Michigan Central Station in Detroit will reopen in 2024, for the first time since more than 30 years.
The site, which spans over 30 acres, will feature cultural programming, stores and a place where visitors and locals can gather for special events. The California Market Center, once the heart of Los Angeles’ fashion industry, has been transformed into a new office center that spans a full city block in the district. Spanning a full city block in L.A.’s fashion district, the 1.8 million-square-foot CMC is a new kind of office center, designed to be a place where the city’s emerging technology, media, entertainment and fashion industries intersect.
The Refinery’s transition was built upon a trio of design thrusts, Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder and creative director for PAU, says.
The first was inserting a contemporary building in the sleeve of the historic structure. The second step involved creating a glass vault in the style of the American Round Arch original. A third required opening the ground floor to the park and the surrounding neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
“This approach has created an iconic landmark for the 21
Century, offering users natural light, luscious greenery, waterfront views and a contemporary dialogue with history that most new commercial projects lack,” he says. The Refinery, although conceived before the pandemic hit, represents a future that will offer a unique sense of place and community. This is valuable going forward.