Inside the Transformation of Historic Waterfront Jewel Empire Stores in Dumbo


    The long abandoned Empire Stores warehouse complex along the Brooklyn waterfront is slated to open to the public in spring 2016, but from both inside and outside the antiquated structure appears nowhere close to complete.

    “It’s topped out, we’re just putting in the finishing touches over the next 30 days,” developer Midtown Equities Director of Leasing David Beare told Brownstoner on a recent hard-hat tour.

    The exterior’s unfinished appearance can be accredited to the focus on preservation in redeveloping and adapting the landmarked structure. Finished renderings of the site show little change to the 146-year-old facade, with nearly all alterations happening on the interior and on the roof, where there will be two additional, glassy floors and a rooftop garden open to the public.

    Inside, the floors remain completely unfurnished, but most major structural alterations are complete, including the carving out of a central courtyard.

    By October, developers plan to turn the space over to leaseholders to begin outfitting both retail and office space for the grand opening next year. Roughly a third of the entire Empire Stores complex will be leased to Dumbo-based home furnishing company West Elm, which plans to move its headquarters into the converted warehouse.

    The roof terrace and beer garden is leased to Soho house, and the Brooklyn Historical Society will have a museum space on the second floor. There will be a significant amount of space open to the public, including a staircase, with stadium seating.

    It will lead from the grounds of Brooklyn Bridge Park below to the garden on rooftop. Office space will occupy the second floor and above — for which leases are still being determined.

    Below, a last look within Empire Stores schist walls while it remains under construction, and sans much glass.


    Office space on upper floors will have floor-to-ceiling windows and stunning views across the East River.


    The beams for two additional floors are in place, but windows are still being installed. The space will be offices, with a rooftop garden and wraparound terraces.


    The HVAC and mechanical space on the roof. The building also has a flood barrier, kept offsite, to deploy in case of a storm surge. As well, there are French drains throughout the complex.



    Workers pouring cement on the roof. They started in the far corner that very morning, and planned to complete the entire floor by the end of the day.



    Looking into the courtyard area. Across the way, the Brooklyn Historical Society will have museum space.


    Looking across the soon-to-be courtyard.


    The frame of a glass elevator.


    In one corner, West Elm has begun installing carpeting and minimalist offices.


    Hanging from the ceiling, an original coffee mixer dating from Empire Stores origins as a cargo warehouse. There is writing on the columns where workers scribbled instructions to each other. Much of the writing dates from the 1940s.




    rendering by Empire Stores


    Above, two renderings showing the exterior and courtyard as they will be when finished.

    Empire Stores Coverage [Brownstoner]
    Renderings via Empire Stores

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