The Empire Stores rooftop in the foreground with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background . (© S9 Architecture/Imagen Subliminal)

Type: Mixed use
Uses: Office, retail, restaurant, entertainment parks, museum
Developers: Midtown Equities, HK Organization, Rockwood Capital
Designers: Studio V Architecture and S9 Architecture, Perkins Eastman
Size: 1.82 acres (0.74 ha)
Date acquired: September 2013
Date started: January 2014
Date opened: August 2016

Land Uses:

  • Buildings: 440,575 square feet (40,931 sq m)
  • Street/parking: None
  • Open space: 35,000 square feet (3,251 sq m) (green roof)
  • Total: 79,650 square feet (7,400 sq m)

Empire Stores is in a formerly vacant 19th-century warehouse on New York City’s Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass (DUMBO) waterfront. The warehouse has been a landmark on the waterfront for more than a century and has become part of the urban fabric of the neighborhood.

Empire Stores is a mixed-use adaptive use project in a landmark historic district and was designed to retain and incorporate many of the building’s notable architectural features, including its large footprint, masonry facade, and schist structural walls. The building once acted as a barrier between Water Street and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

In the renovation, part of the masonry was cut away to create a pedestrian path from Water Street through the building, into a new courtyard, and to the park. Empire Stores partnered with Brooklyn Bridge Park to bring the park into the building through its 7,000-square-foot (650 sq m) fifth-floor terrace, which is open to the public and accessible through the courtyard.

In addition to its green roof, the building uses a closed-loop water source heat pump and has achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. The reanimated complex features 380,000 square feet of creative office space over five floors, including a two-story contemporary addition on the roof.

The building is 100 percent leased. Tenants include West Elm, which leased one-third of the space, 70,277 square feet (6,529 sq m) of retail; the Brooklyn Historical Society, which has gallery space on the second floor; a beer garden; and several restaurants. These teants, in addition to the public space and park access, have made Empire Stores a creative and community hub at the center of Brooklyn’s Tech Triangle.

Exterior facade of Empire Stores in 2019. (© S9 Architecture/Imagen Subliminal)

This article is one of 11 highlighting this year’s winners of the ULI Global Awards for Excellence.