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Thread: Saving and repurposing grain elevators

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Saving and repurposing grain elevators

    Here are 2 links to a discussion on a Buffalo area MB about the numerous grain elevators that are located in and around the Buffalo River just south of downtown Buffalo. They're a vestige of the days when Buffalo was the grain transshipment center of the Western world, and one of the nation's major flour milling centers. Many have already been demo'd and of the remaining ones, many are no long in use. A few, like the General Mills elevator remain active grain storage facilities.

    Wither the Grain Elevators? This is the lead thread about the future of the grain elevators, brought on by a company that owns one of them wanting to demo it. Grain elevators are really problematic because of their size, shape, and location.

    Repurposing Grain Elevators This is a secondary thread on what other cities have done with their elevators.

    Any thoughts on what might be practical repurposing of grain elevators? Any thoughts about them in general?

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    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    In Bloomington, Illinois they re-used some old grain elevators as indoor climbing walls. It's very cool - and yes I've been climbing there.

    Upper Limits - http://www.upperlimits.com/bloomingt...age=info&id=35
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Rygor View post
    In Bloomington, Illinois they re-used some old grain elevators as indoor climbing walls. It's very cool - and yes I've been climbing there.

    Upper Limits - http://www.upperlimits.com/bloomingt...age=info&id=35
    I have seen this in numerous places. It works out quite well really. Most don't need much more space than what is existing.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

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    Cyburbian
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    Any thoughts on what might be practical repurposing of grain elevators? Any thoughts about them in general?

    There are several here in town, both active and inactive. I think one of the larger ones from the 1920s (almost 1/2 mile long) has some historic designation. It is over 100' tall, but I have never seen any lights on the top (for air planes at night).

    I like Akron's idea of converting an elevator into a hotel. But in some cases all you really have is the load bearing outer shell. Everything else would be retrofitted. One of the biggest problems with older grain elevators is potential explosions. The fine powder from the tons of grains, corn, rice, soy, passing through can mix with oxygen and set off a potential explosion.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    In Akron, OH (my wife's hometown) they have a hotel created from a complex of grain silos.

    The Quaker Square Inn at The University of Akron Hotel offers a singular luxury experience. The hotel springs from a converted silo complex that once held more than 1.5 million grain bushels. In recognition of our significant Akron, Ohio hotel and silo complex, the Quaker Square Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    http://www.quakersquareakron.com/

    I also stayed in one in, I think, Irvine, CA.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I've been to Akron's Quaker Square and spent about an hour walking around it. Odd to be sure, but it seems to work well.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian
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    The issue with structures like grain elevators is it costs a LOT of money to convert them to anything else. If they happen to be located in a extremely popular location you might find a developer with very deep pockets and a penchant for extreme risk-taking to take the project on. Failing that you're looking at pumping in a lot of government (read: taxpayer) money, or saying your goodbyes and watching them come down.

    There is one grain elevator left on the Toronto waterfront. It is surrounded by some on the most successful condominium projects in the City. The government is committed to saving the stucture. Yet it's been sitting empty for decades because no one can find a way to save the building and not lose their shirt.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Another great example of a re-use is the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis. It's a very cool museum to visit if you ever find yourself in the Twin Cities.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mill_City_Museum
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Howl View post
    The issue with structures like grain elevators is it costs a LOT of money to convert them to anything else. If they happen to be located in a extremely popular location you might find a developer with very deep pockets and a penchant for extreme risk-taking to take the project on. Failing that you're looking at pumping in a lot of government (read: taxpayer) money, or saying your goodbyes and watching them come down.

    There is one grain elevator left on the Toronto waterfront. It is surrounded by some on the most successful condominium projects in the City. The government is committed to saving the stucture. Yet it's been sitting empty for decades because no one can find a way to save the building and not lose their shirt.
    This seems like the fate of Buffalo's elevators -- and maybe the best we can do is just document them before they all disappear. Almost all are in industrial areas with virtually no "cachet" to draw in urban pioneers. As I said in the original thread, there's an area along the Buffalo River where there are grain elevators on both sides of the river, creating the effect of a canyon.

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Sure....

    Conversion to indoor sky diving.....how about a playground with a huge slide from the top to the bottom? I like the climbing walls idea. How about a zip line from the top to the local feed store? It could be the top of a water slide for the new water park maybe? Can you tell I like slides? How about a stunt man drop to a big air pad down below, or maybe a net....or better yet a circus training facility for trapeze training with a net below? maybe an aviary for injured birds of prey, or any kind of birds, or butterflies, I hear Brocktoon LOVES butterflies.
    Skilled Adoxographer

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Howl View post
    The issue with structures like grain elevators is it costs a LOT of money to convert them to anything else. If they happen to be located in a extremely popular location you might find a developer with very deep pockets and a penchant for extreme risk-taking to take the project on. Failing that you're looking at pumping in a lot of government (read: taxpayer) money, or saying your goodbyes and watching them come down.

    There is one grain elevator left on the Toronto waterfront. It is surrounded by some on the most successful condominium projects in the City. The government is committed to saving the stucture. Yet it's been sitting empty for decades because no one can find a way to save the building and not lose their shirt.
    While we never had gain elavators, we did have several cement silos on our waterfront. These were knocked down and turned into parkland. All cement companies were moved to an very industrial part of the waterfront that includes like uses such as steel mills, salt mines, and other major port activities.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    So far the discussion has focused on the large concrete grain elevators found in large cities. What about the smaller ones dotting the rural landscape. These include the oldest, wooden structures and metal-clad buildings from later years. Each little town had one or more sitting at the edge of downtown alongside the railroad track, which in many cases is now just an overgrown bed with the tracks long gone. Driving across eastern Montana on Highway 2 you can keep yourself from getting too bored by elevator-spotting. As you leave one town and see its elevator disappearing in your mirror, you can already spy the next elevator off in the distance. This goes on for hundreds of miles.

    Unfortunately, many of these old structures are torn down or simply decay and fall down. I have seen a handful repurposed as restaurants.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Driving across eastern Montana on Highway 2 you can keep yourself from getting too bored by elevator-spotting. As you leave one town and see its elevator disappearing in your mirror, you can already spy the next elevator off in the distance. This goes on for hundreds of miles.
    Holy smokes I've done this! This continues along US-2 long into N Dakota by the way. Its the only thing you see... Typically where you have an elavator, there is some sort of crossing, and a few houses and trees. You think to yourself "If I can make it to that town, I will be safe, if I should breakdown before it, I'm hosed!"
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    So far the discussion has focused on the large concrete grain elevators found in large cities. What about the smaller ones dotting the rural landscape. These include the oldest, wooden structures and metal-clad buildings from later years. Each little town had one or more sitting at the edge of downtown alongside the railroad track, which in many cases is now just an overgrown bed with the tracks long gone. Driving across eastern Montana on Highway 2 you can keep yourself from getting too bored by elevator-spotting. As you leave one town and see its elevator disappearing in your mirror, you can already spy the next elevator off in the distance. This goes on for hundreds of miles.

    Unfortunately, many of these old structures are torn down or simply decay and fall down. I have seen a handful repurposed as restaurants.
    They are the quintessential building of the upper Great Plains, I think. When I think of the Dakotas, I always think of them -- frequently painted red from a photo I saw in Nat Geo years ago.

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    Cyburbian
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    Toronto presents an interesting grain silo story. The two large waterfront silo complexes in the city's waterfront redevelopment area cannot be touched by law. They must be preserved, but the city seems to be at a loss about what to with them, given the restrictions of their historical preservation regime. One is right next to Downtown, the other is in the Lower Don Lands - ground zero for future highrise, high-density redevelopment initiatives.

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    Toronto presents an interesting grain silo story. The two large waterfront silo complexes in the city's waterfront redevelopment area cannot be touched by law. They must be preserved, but the city seems to be at a loss about what to with them, given the restrictions of their historical preservation regime. One is right next to Downtown, the other is in the Lower Don Lands - ground zero for future highrise, high-density redevelopment initiatives.
    Howl mentioned this earlier in this thread I think. They aren't like old warehouses that have the right footprint to be repurposed. In Buffalo, it's the cluster of elevators along the Buffalo River that is really the historic gem, meaning that it would be better to save a bunch rather than just one or two. Since they are located in a still active industrial area, and Buffalo is losing population rather than gaining as Toronto is, repurposing doesn't to hold much promise.

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    Buffalo does have an option on the table for re-use of another grain elevator. This would be amazing if they could pull it off.

    http://www.buffalorising.com/2010/12...in-future.html

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    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    Silo Point is a repurposed grain elevator complex on the Baltimore waterfront:

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    Article at Architectural Record

    As I understand it, the elevator structure was converted into residences and some of the silos were retained for historic purposes, but none of the actual silos were converted to housing. I'm not sure if they're empty or if the contain car parking. Interesting note - in the 1920's the grain elevator was the tallest building in Baltimore. Today it is the 22nd tallest.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by JimPlans View post
    Silo Point is a repurposed grain elevator complex on the Baltimore waterfront
    cool. Nice apartment blocks in the back too (if you swivel the camera around.. the red brick stuff).

  20. #20
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    cool. Nice apartment blocks in the back too (if you swivel the camera around.. the red brick stuff).
    That is a very old neighborhood called Locust Point. They are very upset about the changes that have occurred and are occurring in their neighborhood due to gentrification. But, they were found to be the safest neighborhood in Baltimore, and one of the safest urban neighborhoods in the U.S., and that counts for a lot around here, so the yuppies are flocking to it. Here's an older article about what's been occurring and how the old residents feel about it.

    Another development in the area is McHenry Row (PDF site plan). Even in this economy, this project has gotten funding and is well underway. The offices for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council have just moved into the office tower, and Harris-Teeter is opening a new supermarket in the development early next year.

    EDIT: I just noticed that you were probably looking at McHenry Point, a new development on the edge of the old neighborhood. It was completed in 2007.
    Last edited by JimPlans; 22 Dec 2010 at 10:42 AM. Reason: More info

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by JimPlans View post
    I just noticed that you were probably looking at McHenry Point, a new development on the edge of the old neighborhood. It was completed in 2007.
    They look nicely scaled, alley loaded garages. I'm guessing 3 units per entry stairwell.. or two units with the middle floor one being a duplex with the front end of the first floor (because of the garage). My guess is FAR 3 net, at close to 50 units an acre net. Affordable? Or some market rate too? Baltimore has some pleasantly surprising stuff...

  22. #22
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    They look nicely scaled, alley loaded garages. I'm guessing 3 units per entry stairwell.. or two units with the middle floor one being a duplex with the front end of the first floor (because of the garage). My guess is FAR 3 net, at close to 50 units an acre net. Affordable? Or some market rate too? Baltimore has some pleasantly surprising stuff...
    Actually, they are all three-story townhomes, one unit per entrance. Each unit is between 2,200 to 2,400 square feet. All are market-rate. There are 121 units in the development, which covers about 6.1 acres if you include the streets, alleyways and open space (which cover 3 acres). Each unit sits on about 1100 SF of land on average. When they sold, each unit went for about $500K to $600K, but this was in the boom years of 2005-07. Now they seem to be selling in the $300-$400K range if they come up for sale at all. Interestingly, one of the units that came up for sale recently sat on a 1,307 SF lot, and that tiny lot was assessed at $160K (structure was $388K). Wow. The assessed value of the entire project in 2009 was $53 million, or $8.7 million per acre. The development was built by Pulte, and was their first in-city townhome project.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by JimPlans View post
    2,200 to 2,400 square feet
    hehe.. that's twice what I expected... too big IMO. I thought they were 2-3 unit stakups, targeted as affordable/subsidized rentals.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian cdub's avatar
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    A project in Copenhagen converted a pair of silos into Condos. Some images can be found here: The Frosilo
    www.sitephocus.com ...get the picture

  25. #25
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by cdub View post
    A project in Copenhagen converted a pair of silos into Condos. Some images can be found here: The Frosilo
    That's pretty cool. However, it seems that most of these silo conversions don't really use the silo for much. The Frosilo hangs the condos off of the outside and just uses the inside for an atrium (which I assume contains stairs and elevator shafts). Silo Point (above) ended up ripping out the majority of the silos and just keeping a few on the outside corners for decoration. Very few (like the Quaker Square Inn) seem to be able to reuse the silos as an outer shell and create living or working space inside them.

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