Built in 1925, the D.M. Read Company department store was a shopping destination for half a century. After standing vacant for several decades and threatened with demolition, the building was converted into an affordable and thriving artist live/work community. The shape of the building was not conducive to a residential layout because of its deep rectangular floor plan, and window-less interior. The design solution was a central circulation space, adaptable to suit the artists’ needs. Skewed walls, redolent of traditional gallery space, allows residents to individualize walls outside their units by displaying their artwork. Enabling the artists to utilize the area to display their work effectively links the residents by offering space to mingle and share ideas.
The building offers living/working space for the artists, resident gallery space, as well as public gallery space and 10,000 square feet of retail spaces facing the two main commercial streets. The renovation of the department store created functional housing, designed around the lifestyle of the occupants, while successfully restoring one of the significant historic buildings of the city and offering retail space to draw people downtown. The reputation of the building within Bridgeport and the surrounding area encouraged public involvement in the project. The striking restoration of a threatened historic landmark unifies and energizes the community of Bridgeport.