6. Find a link to the past

January 07, 2011 |

The two-story, mid-twentieth-century building in downtown Phoenix wasn’t much to look at, but after architect Chris Nieto took a tour with the owner, he saw great upside potential.

 “When we went upstairs, I noticed that it was basically a steel structure with concrete decking, so right away I knew we had something special,” says Nieto, the principal of local design firm merzproject, a studio of Shepley Bulfinch, headquartered in Boston.

Nieto and his business partner bought the 7,500-sf building, renovated the exterior and gutted the interior, creating an open plan that could easily be fitted out to the specifications of merzproject’s own new design studio on the second floor and a mix of uses for other tenants on the first floor.

Merzproject preserved the structural shell, installed new mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, and polished the concrete floor decks. A ground-floor façade of glass panels slides open to blur the boundaries between the streetscape and the building’s innerds.

By the time the renovation was nearly finished, the architects were getting inquiries about leasing the first-floor space. Now known as The Link, the building is 100% occupied with a restaurant, gallery and clothing store. It’s located along a light-rail line in the heart of the Phoenix Cultural District, near the central library and art museum.

“Even with the gigantic inventory [of commercial real estate in Phoenix], if you’re able to offer great space at or below market prices, you shouldn’t have to struggle to stay full,” says Nieto.

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