The long, low building stretches for several hundred feet along East Main Street, in a deeply industrial part of the city.
“It’s a place for craftsmen and artists,” says Heidi Hefferlin, standing in the middle of an airy foyer at the center of a newly refurbished property dubbed “The Wheelhouse,” near the corner of Holtzclaw.
HK Architects’ purchase and dramatic renovation of the old structure for their company’s own headquarters, plus 17,000 square feet of commercial rental space, demonstrates a firm belief in the Southside district. It also pushes its boundary by three or four blocks, depending on one’s interpretation.
In the past few years Hefferlin and her husband, architect Craig Kronenberg, have noticed an increasing demand for smaller workspaces. They have created several 600-700 square-foot studios in The Wheelhouse and leased them to a variety of makers—from stand-up paddleboard builders to filmmakers, to manufacturers of academic furniture and interior designers. Although the ground floor houses HK Architects and Set in Stone, plus a few of the smaller leased spaces, there are three larger suites available upstairs. The industrial nature of the complex along with the concrete and masonry structures are a perfect fit for the loft style offices and workspaces. The design and branding will identify with the history of the building and site.
Set in Stone concrete designer and caster is a partner and anchor in the facility. The company had outgrown its West Main Street location and was looking to arrange a collaborative workspace with compatible companies.
“We wanted our own building and to have room to grow, but at our own pace,” says owner Nathan Smith. Justin Burd oversees production with Lindsey Ford. “It’s a well-ventilated open space,” says Ford. Burd and Smith began working in concrete in 2006. Inspired by minimalism, their work may be seen in restaurants and homes throughout Chattanooga.
P&C Construction did the renovation, moving walls and adding restrooms, even getting into interior design finishes by facing conference rooms with repurposed wood veneers. The project has been challenging in several ways. The proximity to West Main Street on one side and the railroad tracks on the other presented a tight envelop in which to work.
“The biggest challenge has been that we are trying to create a seamless project out of several buildings,” says Nic Cornelison, project manager for P & C. “We had to saw through walls that were 2” thick and there were 72 new window openings.” The job was unusual because there were already several new tenants and all had different needs.
Cleveland Tennessee Contractor, Pro Wire, modernized the electrical system, running new conduit, installing breaker boxes and hanging lighting fixtures. “The contractors have all done a fabulous job,” adds Hefferlin.
Set in Stone created all the replacement window frames for the building and all the windows open. The company has created the concrete ramps and stairs used in the facility. The building also has new roofing, insulation, doors and lighting. All the waste materials have been reused and the original columns have been left as they were for an industrial esthetic.
The complex will have a secured gate for access to and from the property. The gate will be a custom design and constructed by a local artist. Tenants will have the use of a shared conference room, to be reserved ahead of time. The common area will have a kitchen with fridge and dishwasher, including a relaxation area with sofas and a ping-pong table. Phase II of renovations will include a rooftop deck and garden for hosting events. The parking court will also be repaved and enhanced with full landscaping and parking is free to tenants.
“It’s beautiful to repurpose a building like this, creating a space for artisans to thrive in,” says KW Commercial agent Anne Najar. From her perspective it adds cohesion to the Highland Park community, too. “It’s a great segway to Highland Park,” she says. “I think the area is going to start exploding.” This unique minimalist building opens opportunities, Najar believes, for small businesses to succeed.
In fact, the Wheelhouse name was chosen for and alludes to success, adds Hefferlin. In sports metaphor, it is the part of a batter’s strike zone most likely to produce a home run.
Story by Deborah Petticord. Photography courtesy of Hefferlin Kronenberg Architects