A Sweet Transformation: Former Sugar Plant Gets a Glassy Renovation

The revitalized 10 Jay Street is a landmarked building in the Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood known as DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). It is the former Arbuckle sugar refinery, and recently underwent a glassy reuse transformation into office spaces.

The building was revitalized by New York-based architecture firm ODA, in partnership with owner Triangle Assets. The 10-story, 230,000 square foot property features a delicate balance of glass, steel, brick, and spandrels that give the building a modern jewel-like aesthetic without compromising its industrial heritage.

The original Arbuckle Brothers sugar refinery dates back to 1898. In 1925 it was converted into a winery, and later that decade the front structure was torn off, leaving three of the original facades and an interior party wall exposed to the East River shore. The structure was left vacant for 50 years and fell into disrepair  until purchased by family-owned Triangle Assets in 1991.

When it came time to renovate, the owners wanted a design that would preserve the unique history of the building while integrating into the 21st century fabric of DUMBO. They originally planned to develop the building as condominiums, but instead challenged ODA to reimagine the building for commercial tenants that would appeal to larger commercial businesses.

The owners had donated almost 15,000 square feet of land to Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is now manicured walkways and green lawns.

“It was important to us that our building was hugged by the park. As the only privately-owned building in all of Brooklyn Bridge Park (all other waterfront buildings hold 99-year leases), we wanted to make sure that we were making a statement that we could stand by for years to come,” says Benjamin Stavrach of Triangle Assets. “You can see this building from every direction, from land and sea, it’s definitely the crown jewel of DUMBO,” he adds.

ODA looked at the site’s history, drawing a series of skins that resemble sugar crystals, broken geodes and crystalline surfaces that reflect the park, the river and other surroundings. In addition to the glass façade, the renovations also restored the three east, north and south original facades to their historical masonry condition.

KPA Studio (which is no longer in business) was responsible for engineering, fabricating and installing the unitized curtainwall. The low-E glass was fabricated by the Korean company Hankuk Glass Industries. The project also features an exterior folding wall supplied by Nanawall.

“10 Jay Street is a great example of the guiding principles that should steer the development of our future cities,” says ODA founder and architect Eran Chen. “It’s a fresh approach to preservation; the mixed-use program gives the building a new purpose, shifting business hubs from city centers to peripheral neighborhoods, making DUMBO a place to live, work and play. The outcome is intended to be both beautiful and provocative. I believe 10 Jay will stand as an example for growing cities around the world.”

The building’s facade and interior earned 15 permits from New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, which can hold jewel-box designs to intense scrutiny, according to the architects.

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