Built in 1910, this local historic landmark was originally the trolley barn for the Tampa Electric Street and Railway Company. After the streetcar system was shut down in the 1940’s, it was purchased and occupied by Tampa Armature Works. Now fully renovated, the building is the social and entertainment center for The Heights, a 43-acre mixed-use redevelopment district adjacent to the Hillsborough River with views of the downtown skyline.
The restored two-story building has 73,000 square feet and includes a food hall, three restaurants, event hall for 800 people, event theater for 180 people and a collaborative work space. Early in the design process it became clear that significant alterations to the building would be necessary to functionally accommodate the proposed uses. The design strategy was to identify and preserve the building’s most defining characteristics while not being timid in inserting new elements where necessary.
Accordingly, the existing brick was re-pointed and original exterior doors and windows were restored. Portions of the heavy timber roof structure which suffered from extensive water damage were removed. This resulted in a courtyard which functions as a central node connecting the various uses. The most dramatic change was the insertion of a two-story prefabricated metal building within the gutted western bay. This provides the building with a grand arcade along the western façade which will face onto the district’s future Market Street while also housing the collaborative work space and rooftop restaurant with spectacular riverfront views.
On the interiors a similar strategy was employed. The brick walls, faded plaster and wood roof structure were left exposed. Many obsolete industrial components, most notably a ten-ton crane for hoisting streetcars, were left in place. Salvaged wood was milled and used throughout. New elements (such as stairwells, market stalls and pivoting window walls) were designed with a robust, industrial aesthetic but are also expressed as clearly new insertions into the building.
History is a living, breathing part of human society. Buildings, cities and institutions that respect their past but are also willing to evolve as conditions change will not only thrive but ultimately tell a more, interesting layered story about themselves. Each generation has the right and obligation to add a meaningful chapter to this story. This was our goal with Armature Works.