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Retail Trend Watch: Historic Buildings Revamping for Retail Reuse

By Rhonda Diaz Caldewey, Managing Director of Retail Services for Cushman & Wakefield in San Francisco

Food halls, craft breweries, maker-meets-retail concepts and restaurants are taking advantage of the continued movement of adaptive re-use of historic buildings once lost to time. These buildings are rich with architectural character and soul. Further, reuse of older buildings is a greener approach than building new, resonating with many retailers and consumer alike.

Speaking to the beauty of these grand structures, entire neighborhoods have been reborn into vibrant retail corridors and restaurant hotspots in the last decades, such as SoHo and the Meatpacking districts of New York. Growing retail demand continues for the historical scenery of Jackson Square and the Dogpatch in San Francisco, the Arts District in Los Angeles, and projects like Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and Liberty Station in San Diego. Downtown L.A. is re-purposing more than 60 historic buildings as new residences, hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Another prime example of this trend is Restoration Hardware opening in Chicago last year in an historic former residence hub for young female artists, and in Boston in a building built in the 1860s. The retailer will soon open in yet another historic project in San Francisco’s Historic Pier 70. The project is the former Ship Building and repair yard of Union Iron Works, and later Bethlehem Steel that lay abandoned for decades. It is currently under renovation by Orton Development to house office, showroom, artisans, makers and restaurants with a target opening of mid 2018.

Tartine Bakery, a legend among San Francisco’s confectioneries, expanded into a spacious warehouse to launch its maker-to-market concept, Tartine Manufactory. The industrial-chic space houses a coffee counter, ice cream parlor, bar and café with a full bakery and grain milling production on-site. Next door is Heath Ceramics, another leading retailer in the maker-to-market movement situated in a historic warehouse.

Food halls are particularly taking advantage of restoring historic structures – Early adaptive reuse projects leading the movement have quickly become iconic retail and food destinations. Chelsea Market in New York and the Ferry Building in San Francisco are models followed by the entire industry. More recent food halls projects taking on vintage buildings include Denver’s Union Station, Union Market in Washington D.C., Ponce City Market in Atlanta in the historic Sears, Roebuck & Co. building, and The Pennsy – a culinary destination above Penn Station in New York.

Retailer and restaurant demand for authenticity, soul and character translates into stores that radiate the ambiance of a grand museum or palace. Customers stay longer and gather more often leading to that “second place” projects and shopkeepers are striving for.

To view Rhonda Diaz Caldewey’s Video Interview from “Live at RECon 2017!” CLICK HERE.


Rhonda Diaz Caldewey is Managing Director of Retail Services
for Cushman & Wakefield in San Francisco.


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