The downtown Phoenix Warehouse District is no longer just for storage. The area from Jefferson to Grant streets, between 7th Avenue and 7th Street, is growing in a direction away from its history as a warehouse district.
Case in point: The Ong Gyut Wholesale Warehouse. Built in 1926 as a grocery storage warehouse, it’s now the new Phoenix home of Las Vegas-based advertising and marketing firm R&R Partners. The company moved into the building in November 2014, after renovating the historic building with the help of CCBG Architects.
Matt Silverman, vice president and managing director of R&R, saw the potential in the building years ago and held onto the building, waiting for the right time to renovate and move in.
A half-underground basement worked for cargo loading from rail cars but made for a challenge when deciding how to accommodate the space for the company. To make the lower level habitable for the creative team, a hole was cut in the second floor – now a stairwell – allowing light from the building’s six original skylights to flow downstairs.
In designing the building, CCBG Associate Martin Ball wanted to make sure homage was paid to the building’s history.
The ground-concrete floors keep the building’s industrial feel, as a reminder of the its original use. Even the freight elevator shaft was saved, now a nook in the hallway. The original owner’s son, Henry Ong Jr., was involved with the renovation, and, at 92 years old, rediscovered family history in the building his father built.
With limited space available, satisfying modern parking standards for offices becomes difficult. Retrofitting an old building isn’t easy or cheap, experts point out, and many smaller companies won’t have the resources to accomplish it.
Though only a few blocks from downtown, many people aren’t familiar with the area and just need to be introduced to it, says Brian Cassidy, president of CCBG Architects. Cassidy also serves as president of the Warehouse District Council.
“We’re actively recruiting people to come down here and discover it,” Cassidy says. “Almost every day, I meet somebody new and I walk them through the warehouse district or drive them around and look at a building or two.”
With buildings for sale and the potential of a growing district, the adaptive reuse of these old buildings may just be starting for those with a vision.
“We wanted to help shape it. We don’t want it to be an accident,” Silverman says of R&R’s part in the district’s revamp.