Artists Shopping for $1.5 Million to Revive Steinfeld Warehouse

October 4, 2012

By Teya Vitu

As soon as artists got the keys to the Steinfeld Warehouse on Nov. 9, 2011, they scooted onto the fast-track to resurrect the 1907 brick structure as a live-work-shop-dine haven for artists.

The top 10 layers of bricks were replaced with better quality reclaimed bricks that are also 100 years old.

Fast-track does not mean overnight for a fragile, 105-year warehouse – more like 2014. The Steinfeld has stood vacant since artists were evicted in July 2007, and Mother Nature has not been kind to the warehouse in the mean time or in the 30 years since it was acquired by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The Steinfeld may not look any different now when you drive by on 6th Street, but a closer inspection with architect Corky Poster reveals a world of difference.

2012 has seen a transformation from what Poster called a “pile of rocks” because much of the mortar that held rocks and bricks together at street level and below had completely pulverized.

“There was 8 inches of gray dust right against the foundation wall,” said Poster, a principal at the Poster Frost Mirto architecture, the urban planning firm that undertook the stabilization project.

The warehouse got a $980,000 major tune-up with upward of 5,000 replacement bricks; new mortar on the foundation rock level and the lowest brick wall level above the foundations; and the entire roof structure was replaced.

“Less than a year ago, we were not allowed to enter the building unless we had a $1 million liability policy, a hard hat and a city fire marshal was with us,” said Susan Gamble, co-chair of the Friends of Steinfeld, a committee of the Warehouse Arts Management Organization. “Now we are poised to work with our first tenant and get them in here.”

One year ago, the appraised value of the Steinfeld was zero and the building was pretty much destined for demolition. Today, post-stabilization work, if someone were to step forward with $1 million or so, artists could once again reoccupy the Steinfeld within a few months.

The exterior walls were repaired with replacement bricks (the whitish ones) and new mortar.

In reality, the Steinfeld won’t be ready for artists until 2014.

The challenge in front of the Warehouse Arts Managing Organization right now is assembling about $1.5 million to install utilities and build tenant improvements for apartments, studios and galleries in what is now an empty shell of three conjoined buildings.

WAMO owns the Steinfeld Warehouse these days after a five-year saga that started when the Arizona Department of Transportation removed the tenant artists from the warehouse in July 2007. The ensuing years saw the structure pass from ADOT ownership to City ownership. The City sold the Steinfeld (but not the land beneath it) to WAMO on Nov. 9, 2011.

“We have raised a little more than $1 million (mostly federal Community Development Block Grants used for the stabilization work),” said Deb Dale at Smith & Dale, a local nonprofit and philanthropic counsel consulting with WAMO to raise funds. “There are another $750,000 pending in current grants or other grants being applied for. Most of it is from outside of this community. From the community, we would have to raise another $750,000.”

Smith & Dale is doing a study over the next three months to identify key stakeholders in Tucson who may be interested in investing in the Steinfeld Warehouse.

WAMO may be able to pay less for building out the Steinfeld’s interior.

“We have a call for proposals,” Gambles said. “Some artists may say ‘I’ll do all the tenant improvements. We’re trying to get proposals to get the real needs. We could get a large tenant who wants 3,000 square feet.”

This is what the Steinfeld walls looked like before with no mortar. They were just a “pile of rocks.”

Earlier this year, Poster Frost Mirto drafted a master plan for the Steinfeld. The concept calls for 10 apartments about 813 square feet in size along the 6th Street side with accompanying artist studios on the basement levels. Some studios may have direct staircase access from inside the apartments.

The plan envisions larger public art studios, classrooms, a gallery and a restaurant for the complex’s 9th Avenue side.

“We’ll likely (do interior improvements) in sections,” Poster said. “Section C is first.” That is the southeast corner, on 9th Avenue, where a potential eatery is penciled in.

“When we know the money is there, we can have a (building) permit in four to five months,” Poster said.

WAMO hired Poster Frost Mirto soon after acquiring Steinfeld to come up with conceptual designs and undertake the structural repairs that started Feb. 7 and were concluded in July. WAMO recently extended its relationship with Poster Frost Mirto to design the utilities.

You can best see the before-and-after contrast at the courtyard wall at the Steinfeld’s southwest side. This is the one section that has not been stabilized. The rock foundation and the brick wall from waist level down no longer has any mortar binding the rocks and bricks together.

“It’s not a stone wall,” Poster said. “It’s a pile of rocks. That’s how the whole building was.”

Water damage eroded bricks and mortar on the lowest levels on all sides of the Steinfeld Warehouse. On the 9th Avenue side, roof drainage even damaged the upper bricks. The top 10-12 layers of bricks were replaced as were several patches of brick on the lower levels. You can tell the difference between original brick and replacement brick because the originals are red and the replacements are streaked with white.

The replacement bricks, however, are genuine early 20thcentury.

Each Steinfeld apartment will be two sections wide.

“We scoured around and found some bricks from demolished buildings that had been recycled,” Poster said.

Some 4,000 to 5,000 bricks were salvaged. The largest number went to the Steinfeld’s western wall facing the courtyard. That entire wall was deconstructed and rebuilt.

On the 6th Street side, about half the bricks were replaced from waist level down.

“There was all sorts of water damage,” Poster said. “The entire foundation was excavated, waterproofed on the outside, and repointed with mortar. It’s just a dozen masons down here for a week repointing the foundation.”

The culprit for much of Steinfeld’s woes was the roof.

“The entire roof was unsafe,” Poster said.

Rain water in many places just cascaded down the walls. And the roof was not attached to the walls.

A new roof was installed with new spouts to drain water properly. And, inside, metal straps now attach the roof to the wall to meet modern seismic standards.

“The shell has been stabilized and made safe,” Poster said.

Tucson firms did all the stabilization work. Sellers & Sons was the general contractor. Oden Construction and Cox Masonry took on the considerable masonry work to stabilize walls and repoint the bricks, where much of the mortar had disintegrated.