Category: Multifamily housing
Project site: Previously developed
Building program type: Residential - multi-family, 5 or more units
In 2016, when St. Louis faced a 20,000 housing unit shortfall, this project’s developer turned to the Woodward & Tiernan Printing Company, a massive factory that landed on the National Register of Historic Places for its pioneering application of the daylight factory style. Today, the building contains 164 loft-style apartments that both honor its industrial legacy and meet the developer’s financial model.
When the factory originally opened in 1925 at Tower Grove and Vandeventer avenues, its innovative design included five clerestory monitors and mushroom-capital concrete floors. The building was still considered modern as late as 1959, when Woodward & Tiernan was absorbed for expansion. In the 1980s, however, the building’s presence in the neighborhood shifted drastically, and while the concrete structure withstood the march of time, its brick facades and terra cotta ornamentation fell into disrepair. It became a hulking and uninviting presence at the edge of a struggling neighborhood.
Maximizing its residents’ connections to the building's history was the primary goal of the factory’s redevelopment. The team excised the low roofs between the clerestory monitors to boost daylight in the living spaces and shifted the floor area to new lofted bedrooms to increase the building’s usable square footage. A series of gardens engage the senses, creating intimate outdoor rooms where vestiges of the original structure serve as an implied ceiling.
“This is a thoughtful adaptive reuse of an existing historical building.” - Jury comment
Echoes of the overarching design concept are embedded in numerous project details. The new garden facades evoke letterbox trays used in old printing processes, murals of which adorn the walls at key entrance points. Ink-like tones for carpet and paint selections and reprints of original Woodward & Tiernan products create an additional series of wall murals. Above, the original sprinkler penthouse now functions as a rooftop lounge where two tanks serve as banquette seating areas.
Adaptive reuse of the original structure is highlighted by steel purlins and trusses, timber decking, mushroom-capital columns, and board-formed concrete. Several elements of the open floor plates persist, including original oak office partitions that now shape co-working spaces and original terrazzo floors (a surprising discovery) that now shine after hiding beneath decades of dirt.
The factory’s reuse resulted in a 60% reduction in new construction costs at the time, a financial success for the client. With its historic foundation, Woodward Lofts is a substantial and compelling bookend to the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood at one of its busiest intersections.