Red Hook

A brewery, a market, a creative hub: Activists push new uses for historic Red Hook warehouse slated for demolition

Adaptive reuse urged for fire-damaged S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse

May 3, 2019 Lore Croghan
The Gowanus Landmarking Coalition says the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse should be adaptively reused, for instance as a specialty manufacturing facility. Rendering by an anonymous architect
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Preservationists are ramping up their campaign to save the historic S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse, a fire-damaged industrial building on the Red Hook waterfront slated for demolition.

To draw the public’s eye to the Chetrit Group’s plan to demolish the historic S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse, the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition and local architects drew up renderings depicting chic new uses for the building. They hope to rally the community around imaginative ideas — like breweries and farmers markets — that could help change the developer’s direction before it’s too late.

“Why is the developer hell-bent on destroying a building that could earn revenue if revitalized, as with restored brick warehouses elsewhere on the Red Hook waterfront, and that the community has raised up as important to local history and character?” Brad Vogel of the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition said to the Brooklyn Eagle.

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The renderings come as the city on Thursday partially rescinded a Stop Work Order, allowing the developer to move forward with work on the site’s construction fence and sidewalk shed ahead of a potential demolition.

One design shows what the four-story brick and timber warehouse on the banks of the Gowanus Canal could look like if it were adaptively reused as a specialty manufacturing facility.

The S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse could be turned into a community market. Rendering by an anonymous architect
The S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse could be turned into a community market. Rendering by an anonymous architect

Another rendering envisions a community market inside the building at 595 Smith St., and a third rendering shows the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse’s adaptive reuse as a brewery.

In a fourth drawing, the warehouse is transformed into a makerspace, a type of social coworking hub.

“Why is the developer dead-set on demolition when adaptive reuse is possible?” Vogel said.

The coalition issued an open call to additional architects to present other adaptive reuse designs for the grain storehouse, which was built in 1886.

This is what S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse would look like as a brewery. Rendering by Severn Clay-Youman of Civic Architecture Workshop
This is what S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse would look like as a brewery. Rendering by Severn Clay-Youman of Civic Architecture Workshop

Investigation of June 2018 fire ‘still ongoing’

The S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse survived a June 2018 fire that damaged the south half of the building’s roof and fourth floor.

An FDNY investigation determined the two-alarm blaze was “an incendiary fire” that was “deliberately set,” a spokesperson told the Eagle in March.

The investigation “is still ongoing,” another FDNY spokesperson told the Eagle on Thursday.

The S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse could be transformed into maker space. Rendering by Severn Clay-Youman of Civic Architecture Workshop
The S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse could be transformed into a coworking space. Rendering by Severn Clay-Youman of Civic Architecture Workshop

“Isn’t it sad that while the eyes of the world are on the restoration of Notre Dame after a catastrophic fire, in New York City the owner’s response is to keep trying to demo a building which is much less damaged?” coalition member Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council said to the Eagle.

“Obviously the two buildings are on very different levels, but the restoration technology and techniques are the same,” Bankoff said.

Landmark this building, advocates say

The Bowne storehouse is on the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition’s priority list of properties to propose for city landmark designation. The coalition is made up of community groups, businesses and preservationist organizations.

Here’s what the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse might look like if it becomes a commercial facility. Rendering by Severn Clay-Youman of Civic Architecture Workshop
Here’s what the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse might look like if it becomes a commercial facility. Rendering by Severn Clay-Youman of Civic Architecture Workshop

The Chetrit Group didn’t respond to a query from the Eagle about whether it would consider adaptive reuse for the Bowne warehouse.

During City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca’s first term in office, the developer showed him plans for potential residential towers on the site.

The Chetrit Group bought the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse in 2007 as part of a package of properties for which it paid $14.5 million, city Finance Department records indicate.

The city Buildings Department issued a demolition permit for 595 Smith St. in February.

This is a real-life look at the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse, which stands on the banks of the Gowanus Canal. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
This is a real-life look at the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse, which stands on the banks of the Gowanus Canal. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

In March the Buildings Department issued a Stop Work Order, halting demolition efforts at the site.

On Thursday, the Buildings Department partially rescinded that order. Work can now be done on the construction fence and sidewalk shed on the property, an agency spokesperson told the Eagle.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

 


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