The National Trust for Historic Preservation has announced that Crosstown Concourse, a mixed-use redevelopment of a former Sears Roebuck distribution center, won a 2018 Driehaus Foundation National Preservation Award. This award comes the same week that the building’s original occupant, Sears, filed for bankruptcy.
It’s been a tumultuous ride for Sears, with the closure of distribution centers decades ago portending the former titan of retail’s eventual collapse. With the rise of online retailers has come the steady decline of brick-and-mortar shops, even the big box stores that once anchored suburban shopping centers. Where new business models rely more on carrier infrastructure and customer reviews than on physical showrooms, legacy businesses have struggled to keep pace and maintain relevance. If there’s a silver lining to the emptying out of all of this retail square footage, it’s in projects such as Crosstown Concourse, which successfully repurposes a 1.3 million-square-foot structure, transforming it into a one-stop-neighborhood filled with young disruptors of the type much more likely to purchase with one click than mail-order anything. As I wrote for Architectural Record back in February, the Crosstown Concourse redevelopment offers a potential template for oversized buildings that have remained standing long after the businesses that occupied them evaporated:
“As cities grapple with the respective futures of their industrial pasts, they would do well to look at Crosstown Concourse. For this development, the vision was strong and swayed a diverse group of prospective tenants to get on board. From an environmental standpoint, the transformation of the Sears building into a successful venture like Crosstown Concourse turned a white elephant into green one.”
The Driehaus Foundation National Preservation Award jury included Mtamanika Youngblood, an Atlanta preservationist, Jeffrey Cody, a Getty Conservation Institute historian, and architecture critic Paul Goldberger.