You Can Have a Say in the Future Use of the Steinfeld Warehouse

January 10, 2012

By Teya Vitu

What the new era for the historic Steinfeld Warehouse, 101 West 6th Street, will look like could be decided this week as the public is invited to voice its thoughts about the future uses for the 105-year-old brick warehouse.

A charette at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 12, will ask the question “What do you see this building being in five years?” This workshop takes place at the UA Downtown in the Roy Place Building, 44 North Stone Avenue.

This is the third of five charettes that the Warehouse Arts Management Organization has put on since buying the Steinfeld Warehouse from the City on November 9, 2011. The first two charettes revolved around the Warehouse Arts District as a whole.

The Steinfeld Warehouse is primed for new arts uses.

Now the attention falls fully on the Steinfeld, considered the western anchor for the Warehouse Arts District. But the fragile 1907 structure has sat vacant since the Arizona Department of Transportation evicted all the artist tenants in July 2007.

“I remember when the Steinfeld was up and operating with artists,” said Corky Poster, a partner at the Downtown architecture firm Poster Frost Mirto. “The next iteration will be a whole new set of people. For me, what’s interesting is who are the new people showing up.”

WAMO selected Poster Frost Mirto in a request for proposals process to facilitate Steinfeld charettes on January 12, January 26 and February 11, draw up a conceptual plan and pursue financing possibilities for the estimated $1.5 million to stabilize the Steinfeld.

For more than 20 years, artists and residents of the El Presidio, Dunbar/Spring and West University neighborhoods have had a vested interest in the warehouses on and along Toole Avenue that ADOT owned since the 1980s before auctioning many of them off in the past two years.

Poster and WAMO President Liz Burden stress that new voices are just as welcome at the charette as long-time veterans of the warehouse district.

“We need to have a respect for the past, rooted in the present, but also include emerging, young artists,” WAMO President Liz Burden said. “People want this to be a place for everyone. We want to make sure those new players have a chance to participate to make the Steinfeld a community treasure and community hub.”

Poster Frost Mirton comes to the Steinfeld project with a long history with Downtown and the Warehouse Arts District, most notably as the authors of the 2004 Historic Warehouse Arts District Master Plan, which has driven all the warehouse district improvement in recent years.

“The issue has always been affordability,” Poster said. “My position is you have an area subject to long-term gentrification. The only way to protect affordability is to create permanent low-cost housing.

“That master plan is not against high-end galleries. It is creating permanent affordability in some places at the heart of the Warehouse District. We were clear in the master plan that the Steinfeld Warehouse is the cornerstone of that whole master plan.”

WAMO picked Poster Frost Mirto because of its combined strengths in planning, architecture, historic projects and the firm’s depth of experience in taking projects through the community process.

Artists and neighborhood residents have had years to ponder the future of the Steinfeld Warehouse. The January 12 charette should bring everything to the table.

“This process is to get people in the same room to determine what is most important,” Poster said. “What is the consensus for what should be done?”

Initial thoughts are Steinfeld should incorporate live-work space for artists, exhibition space and retail galleries.

“We need to figure out what is the appropriate balance,” Burden said.

Burden said planning for the Steinfeld must take into consideration how that warehouse will fit into the whole Warehouse Arts District.

“When this is working, what else needs to be working?” she said. “It’s not just an island.”

Poster Frost Mirto will take the input from the January 12 charette to draft a preliminary conceptual plan that will be brought to the next charette on January 26, also at 7 p.m. at the Roy Place Building. The revised conceptual plan will be unveiled at the same place on February 11.

The Steinfeld Warehouse does come with structural challenges that could cost $1 million or more to resolve.

“The brick needs major repair,” said Poster, who firm did a building condition assessment of the Steinfeld in 2007. “There is a huge amount of water damage. The building needs a complete makeover.”

The Steinfeld was built in an era where fire was the biggest threat, but building a warehouse in 1907 to prevent fire devastation goes contrary to today’s seismic standards. The floors and roof beams are not attached to the outer walls. Poster proposes creating a structural connection between the walls and the roof diaphragms and floor to provide seismic stability.

Poster estimates the cost to be $1 million to make the building safe and $1.5 million if you added structural improvements that add heating, cooling, fire suppression and an electrical upgrade.

Poster said the building can be restored and that restoration would cost far less than rebuilding the Steinfeld.

“To replace the build would cost $5 million to $6 million,” Poster said.