Developer Midtown Equities was chosen recently to redevelop the Empire Stores, Water Street's crumbling coffee warehouses (where there are still some scattered mummified coffee beans on the floors). The Times has some intel on the developer's plans for the buildings, revamped with STUDIO V Architecture: the project will include 300,000 square feet of offices, another 80,000 square feet of restaurant/retail/event space, 7,000 square feet of landscaped rooftop open space, and exhibition space. As for the building itself, the architects plan to preserve and reveal some of the building's historical features, like the coffee chutes and hoisting wheels and some of the advertising painted on the site, and perforate the stone walls to make the space more usable for modern-day tenants. A glassy rooftop addition will add another story or two to the building.
Where there's an adaptive reuse project there will, of course, be opponents who want more preservation than a developer has planned. In this case, the New York Landmarks Conservancy offers a fairly restrained critique of the design: "We appreciate the care he's taking with the restoration of the facade," NYLC president Peg Breen tells the Times. "But we do think he's making too many large openings in the schist walls." She describes the proposed addition as "overwhelming."