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Adaptive Reuse: Breaking Ground on a Small Brick Storefront with Big Ambitions.

In Memphis on Bowen Ave, an aging brick storefront building - typical of many built early in the last century - encountered significant challenges that required a creative solution to avoid demolition. The extremely vulnerable two-story structure was partially constructed of archaic hollow clay tile and also unreinforced brick. The second floor and roof wood framing were severely rotted due to long-term roof leaks. The owner and GC, Dane Forlines, was working with a tight budget considering the condition of the structure, less than $100,000.

Storefront structure typical of early-1900's construction

Enter our principal engineer, Dmitry Ozeryansky, who brings a practical and cost-effective approach to the table that will also bring an open and spacious contemporary feeling to the old storefront. Rather than opting for a conventional renovation of both floors, the decision was made to remove the second floor entirely, providing an opportunity to create an 18' high retail space. This ambitious plan, however, required a strategic solution to reinforce the building without breaking the bank.

The design relied on the use of 12x12 timber columns strategically placed around the building's interior perimeter. These columns, spanning 18' tall, were interconnected and strengthened with steel cables, and timber girts. This created a robust timber skeleton within the existing fragile brick shell. This not only addressed structural concerns (both gravity and lateral support as well as bracing of the brick walls) but also allowed for the second-story windows to fill the space with natural light, making the space more appealing for retail use. This particular building is the future home of Cxffeeblack. Dane, the driving force behind the project and a dedicated contributor to Memphis revitalization complimented Dmitry's approach, stating, "Your practical approach to addressing challenges and your willingness to take on one-of-a-kind projects are among the main reasons I wanted to work with you on this project."

"Your practical approach to addressing challenges and your willingness to take on one-of-a-kind projects are among the main reasons I wanted to work with you on this project." - Dane Forlines

The simplicity of the timber skeleton's design brought about cost efficiencies. Unlike traditional finishes that can significantly contribute to project costs, the industrial aesthetic of exposed timbers and cables requires no additional finishing. Additionally, the use of solid timber exceeding 8"x 6" ensured natural fire resistance, adding a safety element and satisfying the Fire Codes.

Arrival of 18' 12x12 timber columns

Beyond the structural transformation, the project will retain the historic exterior charm of the building, aligning with the growing trend of adaptive reuse projects that preserve neighborhood storefront appeal. This cost-effective design sets a practical precedent for investors and owners looking to rejuvenate aging structures without exceeding budget constraints.

As this Bowen Ave structure is transformed, it stands as a testament to the power of adaptive reuse to breathe new life into urban landscapes affordably. At Ozer Engineering we say: "Bring us your tired old buildings, and we will help you revive them!" This project is currently under construction. Stay tuned to see how it develops.

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