It feels a little funny to write a blog post about a project that’s been on our website for months, but sometimes that’s how things turn out. We’ve worked on several projects for the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center; the factory in Ozone Park is the latest and in many ways our favorite.
In short, the GMDC is a non-profit that provides industrial space to rent for small manufacturing clients. People often forget that New York has always had an industrial jobs base. It has shrunk since World War II, but still employs roughly a quarter-million people, mostly in small firms. These firms generally can’t afford their own buildings and are therefore subject to rent hikes based on neighborhood changes and unstable renting conditions – which is the situation that the GMDC addresses.
The building on 95th Avenue in Queens (the neighborhood name “Ozone Park” is from an old rail-based suburban development) is a concrete factory built in 1906 and expanded several times. That is quite early in the history of reinforced-concrete construction in the US, and particularly early in the NYC area. That fact, and the straightforward exposed-frame industrial style is why the building was eligible for, and is now on, the National Register of Historic Places.
The picture above gives a sense of the conditions we found when we started work. More than 110 years of industrial use and low maintenance had left the masonry-patterned exposed concrete spalling and the rebar rusting. The interior was in somewhat better condition, but the change from single-company to multi-tenant use meant that a new elevator was required along with other interior changes.
We were fortunate to have on this project a good client (GMDC), a good architect (Beyer Blinder Belle), and a good contractor (Westerman Construction). Even more, we were fortunate to have a project that was meaningful on multiple levels: restoring a historic building, keeping a site for industrial jobs in Queens, and technically interesting.