Pine Street Market in Portland, Oregon

photo by: Interurban Development

Preservation Magazine, Summer 2019

Visit These 7 Delectable Food Halls in Historic Buildings

First, we had food courts. Then came food trucks. Their natural successor? Food halls—those popular, carefully curated collections of hip local eateries usually found in equally hip urban locales. Following the example of early food hall projects, such as San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace or New York’s Chelsea Market, developers have been taking advantage of historic and new markets tax credits to adapt aging, underutilized buildings, lending new life to city neighborhoods.

“The lifeblood of the food hall is the pedestrian, and it turns out there are lots of historic buildings in downtown locations that in many cases have been under-loved for a couple of decades,” says Will Bradshaw, president of Green Coast Enterprises, a New Orleans–based development firm that specializes in community renewal projects. “Also, from an architectural perspective, historic buildings have all these wonderful, quirky things about them that lead to more interesting food hall spaces.”

Take Tampa, Florida’s, Armature Works, for example. The 73,000-square-foot 1910 redbrick building originally served as a maintenance and storage shed for the city’s electric streetcars. In 2018, developers turned almost a third of the space into the Heights Public Market, with two sit-down restaurants and 14 food stalls that serve everything from ramen noodles to Cuban sandwiches. Vestiges of the old train shed remain, including its solid heart pine floors, five restored brick fireplaces, and a 10-ton crane once used to haul streetcars around the space. Visitors can also check out an original office vault repurposed as a wine cellar or clean up at a salvaged porcelain sink, now a handwashing station at the market’s center.

Portland, Oregon’s Pine Street Market also played a role in the early days of transportation. Built in the 1870s or 1880s, the structure, known as the United Carriage and Baggage Transfer Co., was used as a livery and horse-drawn carriage storage facility until the mid–1890s. When automobiles took over, the three-story building was turned into storage and retail space, and later housed a restaurant and string of nightclubs. Based on historical photos, the 2015 rehabilitation preserved the building’s original exterior and archway windows. Inside, crews removed a series of drop ceilings to reveal the building’s original Douglas fir beams. Now diners eat Korean-style barbecue and German bratwurst under the wood ceiling, festooned with dozens of dangling, bare lights.

Anaheim Packing House in Anaheim, California

photo by: Packing District, LLC

The Anaheim Packing House, now a food hall, was constructed a century ago for the purposes of washing, grading, and packing citrus fruit.

In Anaheim, California, the company now known as Sunkist Growers built the Spanish Colonial Revival–style Anaheim Packing House in 1919 to wash, grade, and pack citrus fruit before shipping it across the country. Most early fruit-packing houses were built of wood and succumbed to fire or rot over the years, and bringing back this one, says Shaheen Sadeghi, president and CEO of building owner LAB Holding, was “like restoring an old wooden ship.” The team was able to preserve the building’s dramatic sawtooth roof, much of its original wooden flooring, and its exterior, down to the orange Sunkist logo above the main entrance.

Commodities of a different sort were also the focus at the Bourse in Philadelphia. Built in 1895, the steel-frame building—one of the first in the United States—served as a stock, maritime, and grain-trading exchange simultaneously, operating as such into the 1960s, when it was converted into offices. Later redevelopment added retail and a 1980s food court. Last fall, a $40 million rehabilitation project returned the trading floor’s original Beaux-Arts grandeur, restoring its wrought-iron railings, marble staircases, and red tile mosaic floor, while opening the central atrium to expose the dramatic curved glass ceiling nine stories above.

In New Orleans, the home lodge for the fraternal organization Colored Knights of Pythias played a major role in the lives of the city’s early 20th-century African American community. When the Pythian Temple opened in 1909, the $200,000 project was said to be one of the largest financial undertakings of its kind by any black organization. It accommodated black-owned businesses, a theater, and a rooftop garden with live jazz. Sold by the Pythians in the 1930s or ’40s, the nine-story building was used as offices before being abandoned after Hurricane Katrina. Its $44 million rehabilitation, developed by Green Coast Enterprises, Crescent City Land Company, and ERG Enterprises and supported by the National Trust Community Investment Corporation, was completed in 2017. The building’s brick and terra cotta exterior was restored and its 1950s-era aluminum and glass paneling was removed. The first floor houses the Pythian Market, with its dozen-plus food vendors, while its upper floors now serve as offices, apartments, and event and performance spaces.

Pizitz Food Hall in Birmingham, Alabama

photo by: Bayer Properties

Diners in the courtyard outside the former Pizitz department store in Birmingham, Alabama, now home to Pizitz Food Hall.

Birmingham, Alabama’s The Pizitz was also once an integral part of the local community, housing the 1923 flagship location of the regional Pizitz department store chain. Generations of Alabamians would do their back-to-school shopping here or pick up cakes spiked with cherry-nut filling from the store’s bakery. In 2015, restoration started on the building, which had been abandoned after Pizitz closed in 1987. The new Pizitz Food Hall, with its dozen-plus eateries that range from the Nepalese dumpling shop MoMo to the Alabama Biscuit Company, still boasts its original ceramic-tile floor, plaster ceilings, and sturdy plaster columns topped with gold crown moldings. During renovation, crews discovered the remains of an old wall clock and its iron casing, emblazoned with the initials of the store’s founder, Louis Pizitz. The restored clock now occupies a prominent spot overlooking the space.

In Minneapolis, shoppers also once flocked to the Sears, Roebuck and Company store, built in 1928. The massive concrete building had been vacant since 1994. But, as Ted Campbell of developer Ryan Companies says, “it was built for the ages.” Crews restored the building’s hulking brick exterior and interior concrete floors and replicated its early 20th-century windows and awnings. The 1.2-million-square-foot building now holds several businesses, housing, and Midtown Global Market, with a diverse mix of shops and eateries reflecting the neighborhood’s ever-evolving immigrant mix. Here you’ll find Moroccan, Mexican, Asian, and East African flavors. “It’s everything you’d expect from a world bazaar,” says Campbell. “All the colors and smells come together in a wonderful way.”

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Joe Sugarman lives in Baltimore and is a frequent contributor to Preservation magazine.

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