The Nation’s First Commodities Exchange Now Is a Top-tier Food Hall

A Welcoming Space

The team began renovations at the primary entrance fronting Independence Mall on Fifth Street. Removing a portion of the inserted mezzanine level restored the original double-height grand entrance and uncovered architectural details, including portions of the original archway and trim covered by the new mezzanine floor and crown molding covered by office drop ceilings. These discoveries were retained and restored. BLT Architects worked closely with Daniel J. Keating Co., the general contractor, to ensure the renovations were sensitive to the original detailing and new details were in keeping with the earliest design, complementing the historic ornament.

The whiteness of the space and the brightness of skylights enhance the space, bringing it back to life.
The whiteness of the space and the brightness of skylights enhance the space, bringing it back to life.

The lobby design relocated the security desk to better serve the office tenants and visitors to the food hall. Previously, the desk was built from dark-stained wood that fully engaged the walls and had a heavy appearance, making it a prominent feature in the lobby. The new desk is made of light marble and glass panels that stand free from the wall and allows visitors to first notice the double-height space. The renovated lobby is a dramatic announcement of the restored glory of the building.

With the restoration of the primary entrance complete, focus turned to the central atrium that housed the ill-fated food court. Mammoth openings in the floor that contained escalators to direct visitors to overflow seating were filled, resulting in greater programmable area and flexibility for the food hall. (With the removal of the overflow space, the building owner currently is seeking a permanent tenant for the basement.) Vendors with cooking-intensive needs were located along the perimeter of the food hall where exhaust and other service demands could be more easily met with upgraded building systems.

An extremely lightweight armature, designed within the bearing capacity of the existing structure—and aesthetically pleasing when viewed from within the food hall and from the offices above—was built to define the space for the center stalls. Crafted of wood sections designed to resemble wide-flange steel, the structure provides the lighting, services and code-required coverages required by the central tenants. The smaller grid within the wood
frame connects an integral lighting system that allows vendors flexibility in placing lights and adding code-required ceiling tiles in areas of food preparation.

The atrium space’s lighting was a major consideration. The food court’s previous lighting resembled that of a riverboat casino. Surface-mounted incandescent bulbs created a dim glow that left the original architectural details in shadows. A neutral beige paint compounded the problem, giving the space a nondescript feel. By removing all surface-mounted lights and introducing concealed LED lighting, the original architectural ornamentation is celebrated. A cool, bright color palette highlights the ornament throughout the space. The original wrought-iron rails of the stair and balconies are painted a cool gray to provide contrast against the white walls. The whiteness of the space and the brightness of skylights enhance the space, bringing it back to life.

During the renovations, many historic details were uncovered, embraced and included in the final design of the food hall and lobbies. One of the previous food court renovations added a quarry tile floor throughout the space. Once removed, large areas of the original floor were found to be intact and in good condition, including brass stall numbers and bands of intricate handlaid mosaic tile from the Bourse’s time as a commodities exchange. The tile and mosaic, which were used to demarcate the trading stalls, were preserved and the major areas of infill were hand-stained with a simplified pattern to complement the original tiles.

Once the quarry tile floor was removed, large areas of the original floor were found to be intact and in good condition, including brass stall numbers and bands of intricate handlaid mosaic tile from the Bourse’s time as a commodities exchange.
Once the quarry tile floor was removed, large areas of the original floor were found to be intact and in good condition, including brass stall numbers and bands of intricate handlaid mosaic tile from the Bourse’s time as a commodities exchange.

The office entrance on Fourth Street could not be restored to its original 2-story height because of an existing long-term lease tenant on the mezzanine level above. This secondary lobby was renovated to be consistent with the Fifth Street lobby, however, allowing the double-height space to be restored in the future.

The last major focus of the renovation was the office component. Overall efficiency was improved by 10 percent with plans for rolling occupancy based ADA compliance improvements. Serpentine corridors were simplified to provide logical egress, and small, disjointed office spaces were combined to provide improved spaces with higher lease potentials. A highlight of the office renovations is the Exchange, communal space within the office floors where smaller-office tenants can meet, dine and share ideas. The concept exists on just one level currently but was designed to serve the adjacent floors above and below, where the building owner was specifically looking to attract multiple smaller tenants. The Exchange features floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the atrium, providing tables and stadium seating for working or relaxing.

Construction was phased to minimize impact on the office tenants. Work began in January 2017 with the Exchange and the main entrance from Fifth Street. At about the same time, the tenants of the food court began to leave as their leases terminated. In some cases, tenants with longer leases had to negotiate termination, which created some delay. Construction on the main food hall began in September 2017. The grand opening was held in November 2018.

George E. Bartol would be proud of the Bourse as it stands today. His vision for a building where individuals meet, exchange ideas and conduct business stands true once more. The Bourse is again a hub of activity with the amazing architecture of 1895 embraced and shown in its true beauty.

Retrofit Team

OWNER: MRP Realty
ARCHITECT: BLT Architects
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: O’Donnell & Naccarato Structural Engineers
MEP/FP ENGINEER: Concord Engineering
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Daniel J. Keating Co.
LIGHTING DESIGN: Lighting Design Collaborative

Materials

PORCELAIN TILE: Tabula Wood-look Tile from Garden State Tile
MINI BLINDS: Bali Customiser 1-inch Aluminum Blinds by SWFcontract
EXCHANGE STOREFRONT: Bliss Noram
LINEAR DIFFUSER: Architectural Linear Diffuser by Titus
LOBBY PENDANT LIGHT: Litecontrol Inde-Pendant by Hubbell Lighting
FLEXIBLE LINEAR LED LIGHTS: Solara Flexible Lighting Systemby Apogee Lighting
LED ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING: Lumenfacade by Lumen Pulse
LIGHTING GRID: Global Trac Pro by Nordic Aluminium
EXHAUST HOOD: Captiveaire
COMMERCIAL SINKS: Hand Sink and Three Compartment Sink by Eagle Group
WATER HEATER: Lowboy Electric Water Heater by Bradford White
AUTOMATIC GREASE INTERCEPTOR: GreaseStopper Automatic by Highland Tank

PHOTOS: JEFFERY TOTARO

About the Author

Diana Masterson and Robert Lubas
Robert Lubas, AIA, is an architect with BLT Architects and Diana Masterson works with marketing strategies and business development at the firm.

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