Brooklyn Bridge Park awarded the development and re-design of the historic Empire Stores to Midtown Equities, a leading real estate investment and development firm led by Brooklyn native and Chairman Joe Cayre and his two sons Jack and Michael. Midtown Equities selected STUDIO V Architecture, led by Jay Valgora, to create the architectural design for the adaptive re-use and addition to seven Civil War era buildings. Located immediately adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge overlooking Brooklyn Bridge Park, these magnificent historic structures have remained empty for over a half-century. The Empire Stores are among the last remnants of the “walled city” of Brooklyn, whose warehouses historically separated the surrounding community from the original working waterfront.
The design includes a Brooklyn marketplace featuring local food and restaurants, a cultural museum dedicated to Brooklyn, offices for digital startups and creative firms, and a public rooftop park overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge Park and Manhattan skyline. “We are thrilled to be working with the Cayre family on this historic project. Along with the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire Stores are the most iconic structures on the Brooklyn waterfront,” stated Jay Valgora, the principal and founder of STUDIO V.
“Our design combines historic rehabilitation with contemporary forms and materials to create an innovative new architecture for the waterfront. While carefully restoring these magnificent masonry structures, the new glass courtyard and rooftop park will bring light and air into the buildings and reconnect the neighborhood to the waterfront and its beautiful new park. STUDIO V’s design features an angled glass courtyard and arcade that passes through the existing masonry structures. This public courtyard extends up through the buildings, wrapping around historic stone schist walls to culminate in a rooftop public park.
A delicate glass addition with gardens and terraces will rise over the historic buildings, with a green roof that is visible from the surrounding bridges. The Empire Stores are listed on the National Historic Register, and all facades, interiors, and architectural treatments will follow the strict standards for historic rehabilitation required by the National Park Service. The project has committed to achieving a rating of LEED Silver or higher for sustainable architecture. The transformation of the Empire Stores will be one of many New York City waterfront projects designed by STUDIO V.
In seven years, the Studio V has emerged as one of the foremost architectural and master planning firms engaged in waterfront design and resiliency, with projects across New York and cities around the world. In addition to their architectural projects, STUDIO V is working pro bono with the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance to help create design guidelines that illustrate best practices for waterfront design. “Working to improve, strengthen, and promote public access, resiliency and restoration to New York City’s waterfronts is essential to the future of New York,” says Roland Lewis, CEO and President of MWA.
“We are excited to have Jay and the STUDIO V team working with us in our efforts. In addition to innovative waterfront edge design, the Empire Stores transformation will give back to its DUMBO neighborhood economically and socially. “Coming from a family that was born and raised in Brooklyn, we look forward to creating a successful development that serves the community of DUMBO,” says Joe Cayre, Chairman of Midtown Equities. “We selected STUDIO V for their talent in creating innovative and sensitive architectural designs that will transform the Empire Stores into a destination, and a cultural resource for both the neighborhood and New York City.