Transformation Tuesday

Taking a blank canvas and crafting the aesthetic direction and ambiance of your new space can be both challenging and overwhelming. With the endless design options out there, where do you start? How do you know which ones are right for you?Crafting something from nothing can be quite daunting. Now imagine that you are not starting with a blank canvas at all but, in fact, a canvas painted for someone else entirely…

This, my friends, is the wonderful world of building renovation! The reality for many when they set up shop in an existing structure that isn’t built just for them from the ground up and handed over shiny and new. You have existing conditions to deal with. You have code upgrades to manage. And you have to have an honest conversation with yourself about how much blood, sweat, tears and money you are willing to put in.

Truthfully, there are a lot of arguments for renovation over building new. For example, construction waste accounts for nearly 1/4 of our nation’s municipal solid waste each year (1). And the energy consumed in producing, transporting, installing, maintaining and disposing of construction materials represents between 10-25% of the total lifetime energy consumption of a typical building (2). So restoration and redevelopment produce less waste and consume less energy than demolition and new construction.

cost chart horz

Buildings also play a huge part in a nation’s culture. “Architecture is a direct and substantial representation of history and place” and “the visual and tangible conservation of cultural identity,” according to the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. And because “buildings change with us, thus recording a piece of each generation’s story,” it’s becoming more crucial than ever that we preserve existing over demolishing and building new.

But one of the greatest reasons to renovate, in terms of a company’s bottom line, is that it can save you a lot of money in upfront costs. Especially if you are smart about the existing building you pick as it relates to your desired new use. So today we’re taking a look at a highlights reel of recent renovations to outline what is possible when you start with someone else’s canvas.

THE BRIDGE HUB :: $82/ SF renovation

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Originally built in the 1920’s, this brick building was once home to the community’s YWCA before sitting vacant and lifeless for many years. Purchased by The Bridge Church, it was returned to its community function in a modern interpretation and is now known as the Hub community center.

SALVAGED: The building’s structural elements, including exterior brick walls and concrete columns and ceiling structure. The existing monumental stair and exterior window placement and shapes were left in place.

RENOVATED: The space was gutted from top to bottom. Drywall was taken off the exterior walls and ceilings, exposing the beautiful 1920’a brick and concrete elements. A fireplace wall was strategically placed in a location that allowed us to hide an existing roof drain, which would have been very challenging and expensive to move. The building also received all new mechanical and electrical systems to meet all current building codes.

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A new concrete overlay floor was poured throughout and the existing stairs were outfitted with a wood tread and metal riser to give them a new finish. With the exception of a few dropped acoustical ceilings added the existing ceiling was left exposed and repainted in areas that were visually displeasing. New and modern finishes, furniture and decorative elements that reflected the owner’s vision were implemented throughout.

In terms of what this transformation meant to the community, native Barb Crowder made the following statement: “This building was my home away from home for many years and gave me a safe place to be me. Now, it’s been beautifully restored and will be a safe place for many. I loved everything about it from the very minute I walked through the door.” Because The Bridge chose renovation over building new, locals like Barb can continue to enjoy a space that was such a large part of their upbringing as well as share it and it’s memories with the next generation.

EMBASSY TOWER :: $42/ SF renovation

Embassy 1- horz.jpg

SALVAGED: Because this is a multi-tenant office building, maintaining the barrier between the common spaces and tenant spaces was important and all existing walls stayed in place. The massing of the lobby spaces, including building core and amenity locations, remained the same. Some of the newer lighting elements were salvaged and reused in new locations.

Embassy 2- horz.jpg

RENOVATED: The space received a complete lighting upgrade. Fixtures were reorganized to highlight the architecture of the space and updated to LED throughout to render a more unified color temperature. A focal point was created at the center of the lobby with the addition of a 215 pound custom chandelier.

A full finish upgrade was also implemented. New flooring, both soft and hard surfaces, was added throughout. All areas received a fresh coat of paint to brighten the space. Interest and variety was added with a mix of wall finishes that render the space more upscale. Wood elements were added to bring a sense of warmth and comfort to the space.

FUSION TASTE :: $24/ SF renovation

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Typically restaurants are one of the most expensive space types to open because of how intricate and code heavy they are. One of the great assets of this renovation was that the space was a restaurant in a previous life, which allowed us to utilize and reuse a lot of the existing high cost elements.

SALVAGED: The kitchen, dishroom and bathrooms were all left in their current locations with only minor upgrades needed to bring them up to code. Much of the existing track lighting was salvaged, outfitted with new bulbs, and relocated within the space to meet the new design. The existing mechanical system was salvaged, again with only minor updates needed.

Fusion 1- vert.jpg

RENOVATED: The existing bar area was demolished. New wall and ceiling massing was added to frame dining areas and add waiting and semi-private dining areas to the space. New decorative lighting, metal screen and wall elements were added in line with the theme of the space. New flooring material was added over the existing concrete floors and ceilings and walls throughout got a fresh coat of paint.

PRESTIGE MEDICAL :: $14/ SF renovation

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SALVAGED: This renovation was a “quick and dirty” refresh to get a new business off the ground on the right foot. Because it was a already a medical office function the majority of the existing space; walls, doors and restroom location, was left in place. Existing cabinetry and acoustical ceilings were in good condition and remained as well.

Prestige 2- vert2.jpg

RENOVATED: The renovation was primarily a finish upgrade to make the spaces more current and relevant. Flooring was demo-ed and replaced throughout. Existing countertops were torn out and replaced with a new, more subtle material. The space received a fresh coat of paint on all walls and new furniture and art work to compliment the space.


*NOTE: The cost per square foot listed reflects construction cost only and does not include furniture, artwork or equipment costs.
Project Photography: Bridge Hub and Embassy Tower: Dan Schwalm, Fusion Taste: Tom Kessler 
(c) 2017, Studio | BRiNK


[1.] MacAskill, Jaye. “Historic Preservation & Environmental Conservation.” Save Our Heritage Organisation, 5 March 2017.
[2.] The Green Building Bible Vol.1, pp. 195-198, Materials and Methods, Chapter 4                                                              [3.] Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.




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