Sustaining Our Future by Preserving Our Past

From sacred buildings, to schoolhouses to historic power plants, such as Battersea Power Station in London, the adaptive reuse of old buildings isn't a new concept. Reinventing existing buildings for new uses certainly offers some of the most dramatic and interesting living spaces.

We are currently witnessing a growing trend in conversions of urban historic buildings and by converting old structures, not only are we saving pieces of history, but also breathing new life into the unique homes that take their place.

Older buildings are often steeped in history, old world elegance and style, with many original features being restored and incorporated into the renovation or new structures. A good example of this is the upcoming development in East London, appropriately named “The Stage”.

With its exquisite design and rich history, The Stage will soon become one of the most spectacular mixed-use developments in the United Kingdom. The site of the Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch was once home to William Shakespeare’s Theatre Company, where the first performance of the famous Romeo and Juliet took place.

The Stage LondonAbove: Computer renditions of The Stage development in Shoreditch, East London. Construction is expected to begin in April 2016 and be completed by early 2019.

The theatre first opened in 1577 and showcased world-famous plays until its closing in 1624. In 2012, the site was rediscovered and what remains of the theatre is currently being excavated and preserved. The announcement of the 2.3 acre development created a buzz amongst eager theatre lovers, as what still stands of the Elizabethan playhouse will be showcased to the public through a glass platform.

The Stage will feature a public square surrounded by a residential tower and office buildings. While access to the square and the preservation of the former theatre will be free to the public, purchasing one of the 412 luxury apartments within the development will be more costly. With homes ranging from studio apartments to four-bedroom duplex penthouses, the starting price for purchasing a home within the complex will range from £695,000 into the millions.

Residents of the luxury apartments will benefit from a health and fitness club, a rooftop bar on the 32nd floor and a 24-hour concierge. Paying tribute to its former self, the development will also have a 200-seat sunken amphitheatre for future plays and a Shakespeare museum.

Construction on the development is expected to begin in April 2016 with completion by early 2019.

Meanwhile, in the United States, major cities such as Boston, Chicago and Seattle have seen a major redevelopment of former factories and commercial buildings, many of them being converted into spacious lofts and high end condominiums.

Textile Building in TriBeCa’s Historic District in Lower ManhattanAbove left: the façade of the famous Textile Building in TriBeCa’s Historic District in Lower Manhattan; top right: apartment 6B; bottom right: the roof terrace at the Textile Building on 66 Leonard Street

The Lower Manhattan neighbourhood of TriBeCa, a portmanteau from Triangle Below Canal Street, is well known around the world for its luxurious condominiums, many of which have been converted from former factories. TriBeCa was primarily known as the centre of the textile and cotton trade in New York during colonial times and it wasn’t until the late 18th century that residential development began.

One of the most famous buildings in the neighbourhood is the former Textile Building. Built in 1901, it is located at 66 Leonard Street and was designed by Henry J. Hardenbergh, well known for being the architect of the famed Plaza Hotel, a beloved Manhattan landmark located just off Central Park.

The district’s revival was helped by high profile names, such as Robert De Niro, who currently owns a property in TriBeCa. The trendy neighbourhood is also home to power couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z, professional baseball and former Yankees player Derek Jeter, legendary actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep and supermodels Adriana Lima, Karlie Kloss and Chanel Iman.

The Penthouse at the Textile Building, located at 66 Leonard Street in TriBeCaAbove: The Penthouse at the Textile Building, located at 66 Leonard Street in TriBeCa’s Historic District, Lower Manhattan

New York is a city where space is a premium and land availability a rarity, forcing creative real estate developers and homeowners to turn to the adaptive reuse of buildings. By doing so, we are witnessing the conservation of historic landmarks and old buildings while creating new, unique residences. Manhattan now has some of the most unusual, yet most fascinating building conversions, offering dramatic and interesting living spaces while preserving the past lives of these historical structures.

During the 19th century, firehouses were built around the city and were distinguished by their high, arched entryways. The City has seen budget cuts over the years and many of the firehouses were shut down. However, these old buildings have been revived as private residences for some New Yorkers. One of the most famous examples is the firehouse on Barrow Street in the West Village. It was built in 1851, however its short life ended in 1865. Today, it is home to several tenants as a fully occupied rental building.

One of the former buildings belonging to St. Vincent’s HospitalAbove: one of the former buildings belonging to St. Vincent’s Hospital, located at 130 West 12th Street in Greenwich Village

In Greenwich Village stands one of the buildings that once was part of St. Vincent’s Hospital. Founded in 1849, St. Vincent’s was one of the oldest hospitals in New York City, which eventually expanded into five buildings throughout Manhattan. However, due to bankruptcy, the hospital was forced to close in 2010 and its buildings were purchased by a private company. A much-loved building in the Village, its redevelopment was controversial as many New Yorkers didn’t want to see it become a residential building. Despite local protests, St. Vincent’s Hospital was relaunched as a luxury residential development and quickly sold out, with units priced from $1.415 million for a one bedroom to $12.85 million for a four-bedroom penthouse.

The heart of the nearby neighbourhood Nolita (derived from North of Little Italy) is home to the former police headquarters, a Beaux Arts building that was erected in 1909. The building served as the New York City Police Department Headquarters from 1909 until 1973, but the building fell into disuse following its relocation to 1 Police Plaza. Today, the building is known as the Police Building Apartments following the conversion by developers in 1988.

The historic landmarked Police Building Apartments in Nolita, ManhattanAbove left and far right: façade of the historic landmarked Police Building Apartments in Nolita, Manhattan; above centre: the building’s magnificent four-story penthouse.

Head uptown to the prestigious Upper East Side, home to the wealthiest of New Yorkers. The area was once made up of townhouses, as well as nearby carriage houses for the elite to keep their horses. Today, these buildings have been converted into luxury residences. One carriage house, known as the Marquand, was restored and renovated to become a two-family residence. While this stretch of the Upper East Side is a high concentration area for carriage houses, the origins of the building were hidden for years behind a layer of stucco, which was removed during the renovation. The revival of the former carriage house was chronicled by the New York Times, a well-known magazine in the city, throughout 2007.

While the conversion of historic buildings is certainly nothing new, it is expected to grow further in the coming years as it serves as a practical solution to creating more residences in densely-populated cities. The renovation and restoration of old buildings allows for the preservation of history whilst creating modern and luxurious new homes, far outliving their original purpose.

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