Architect: HGA, Inc.
Owner: Blue Ribbon Suits
Contractor: KM Development Corp.
The vast Pabst Brewery closed its doors in 1996, leaving blocks of historic buildings vacant. Currently undergoing a rebirth as a multi-use National Register Historic District, most of the buildings that have been easy to renovate have been restored, while the most dilapidated and difficult to renovate buildings remain vacant. The historic Bottling Plant was the largest of the old historic buildings, and one of the most difficult to renovate due to its huge solid foot print, lack of first floor day lighting, and its advanced state of dilapidation.
A developer asked the architect to renovate the historic Bottling Plant into student housing to serve several nearby Colleges and Universities, with studio to 4-bedroom apartments including true lofts, floor-to-ceiling windows and a full set of community features such as a fitness center, food court, and theater. The developer was pursuing federal historic preservation tax credits, which severely limited any alterations that could be made to the exterior envelope of the old building.
To solve the significant problem of lack of window-wall perimeter for many housing units, two atriums were cut into the historic building by partially dismantling the second floor in these atria, allowing daylight down to the lowest level of the building. With the National Park Service not allowing removal of any of the historic exterior form of the building, lost skylights and roof monitors were restored to allow daylight to flood these spaces with light. Student apartments were located not only on the historic building perimeter, but were designed to face the new atriums as well. Existing tall floor to ceiling heights allowed for numerous units with 2-story living rooms, featuring internal stairs which access upper level bedrooms. Existing timber and iron frame structural elements were preserved and exposed in most of the student apartments, as well as in public and circulation spaces. Fragments of old exterior walls that had been trapped inside the building (as later additions were made) were restored and preserved as “ruins” inside the building. The highly dilapidated and damaged brick and stone exterior was restored to exacting federal standards, with alterations made after the period of historic significance removed and repaired. Many remaining historic windows were restored, while lost windows were reconstructed. Evidence of the three phases that make up the historic whole was carefully preserved.
Photos: MacRostie Historic Advisors, LLC