Texas-based developers GroundFloor Development and Prescott Group are planning Saint Elmo Public Market, a $120 million commercial project housed inside a 1950s former school bus maintenance facility in Austin. Designed by Andersson-Wise Architects , the 210,000-square-foot project will include a 40,000-square-foot marketplace featuring locally owned bars and restaurants, plus two new constructions housing offices for musicians, tech companies, non-profits, and entrepreneurs.
Arthur Andersson, principal at Andersson-Wise Architects, said the idea to repurpose the steel-frame industrial warehouse into a food marketplace came from the developers and was inspired by other food halls, including Pike Place Market in Seattle.
“[The developers] wanted to create a place to fill a niche for young, energetic chefs who have gravitated to Austin in recent years,” Andersson says. “Not everyone can afford to have a $2 million brick-and-mortar restaurant built, so this market is inspired by our city’s food truck tradition, but in a more enclosed setting.”
Andersson says that the repurposed building is a fitting space for the restaurants, since tenants will be more of the mom-and-pop variety and, he jokes, “will not include an Olive Garden.”
“For Austin, a building from the 1950s is considered old,” Andersson says. “The construction of buildings [from that era] are very different and far less generic than buildings are today—just like the restaurants it will house.”
The architect says he plans to keep much of the raw character of the industrial space intact, including its simple steel frame and high transom windows.
“I’ve noticed that buildings in Austin that were built before air-conditioning tend to be remarkable things,” he says. “People were very creative back then to make a space comfortable, so instead of installing a standard ducted-forced air system, we’re including individual A/C units and large fans to circulate the air. We’re also building deep canopies on the east and west sides of the building to help block out the sun at certain times of the day. You get an organic effect that seems natural and connected to the local climate and nature.”
Construction will commence next spring and the project will be completed in early 2018.