1221 Broadway in San Antonio, Texas was a failed real estate project that had been stalled since 2004 and was rotting ever since as the lawyers, banks and developers fought over it. While all this was going on, it got occupied by squatters; Archdaily writes:
Once referred to as “Ghost Town,” and described by the San Antonio Express-News as “the biggest homeless shelter run by the homeless,*” the complex had become a site of criminal activity, ranging from theft and vandalism to burglary and assault.
It was an eyesore in a prominent location, seen by everybody. Jennifer Hiller quoted the mayor My San Antonio:
"Everyone wants the eyesore gone. It's a double benefit," Mayor Julián Castro said. "You get rid of the eyesore and get something that adds value."
As a historic preservationist, these are words I have heard many times; a building gets associated with certain kinds of people, develops a terrible reputation and there is pressure to demolish, to get rid of the stain. We saw it at Robin Hood Gardens in London and in Brantford in Ontario. While these buildings were not historic, they certainly had the kind of reputation that would encourage a clean slate: who would think that anyone could make anything out of them?
Lake|Flato Architects, with OCO Architects, certainly has, with an amazing renovation.
To achieve the transformation of this urban living compound, the adaptive-reuse construction of 1221 Broadway took shape in two phases: phase one to renovate the existing 300 apartments and five courtyards, and phase two to renovate retail and office space in the Broadway building on the eastern block. Phase one involved re-skinning the existing building and making windows larger to allow more natural daylight in the apartments.
The connection to the five courtyards and to the outdoors creates both a unique oasis and urbane street presence. These courtyards link urban living with nature, and provide outdoor activity and gathering spaces.
The interiors are pretty spectacular too, cleaning up the existing concrete and leaving it exposed, almost advertising its past as a shell instead of trying to bury it. This is such a powerful example of how buildings can be saved, reused and reinterpreted if you have a good architect and you don't load the project down with emotional baggage. Lots more pictures at ArchDaily