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Iconic Mid-Century Bank to Become Dining Hotspot in Phoenix

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The team behind several successful adaptive reuse projects will partner once again to create a new restaurant in an iconic piece of Phoenix architecture history. Located along North Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix, the former First Federal Savings & Loan Bank, designed by the regional mid-century modernist architect Alfred Newman Beadle, will be converted from offices to dining space by Phoenix-based developer Upward Projects, with the Phoenix office of Shepley Bulfinch as the design firm.

Photo courtesy Modern Phoenix
The former First Federal Savings & Loan Bank features many design details typical of architect Beadle and other regional modernist designers.
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The building has remained relatively intact over the years, and the design team plans on keeping it that way. "The bones of the structure are in excellent condition," says Ryan Grabe, project designer.

The original building featured structural steel support, post and beam construction and a wide-flanged base. Large amounts of natural light were provided through three walls of glass shaded by a 10-ft cantilevered roof. “Our plans are to retain all that, expose as much as we can and insert what is needed for the new restaurant,” Grabe says.

The new layout will add an exposed exhibition kitchen on one end of the building, and a bar visible through the exterior glass on the other. The design may also add a skylight to the center of the interior to bring in additional natural light and reduce electrical loads.

Shepley Bulfinch and Upward Projects previously collaborated on repurposing old buildings for the wine-café Postino East in Gilbert, Ariz. and Windsor and Churn, a side-by-side restaurant and ice cream shop located on Central Avenue in Phoenix.

“It’s a real opportunity not only to partner again with Upward Projects but for us to show how a design approach to adaptive reuse and historic preservation can create something remarkable in the heart of Phoenix,” says Joseph Herzog, principal of Shepley Bulfinch.

The design is expected to be complete in May, with construction starting this summer. A contractor has not been announced for the approximately four-month build.

The design process is unique, intended to involve the owner’s creative side during construction, Grabe says. “We create a canvas for them. We’ll make everything work and throughout the process, as we are building it, we’ll see unique finds on vintage furniture and lighting, and we’ll develop it along the way.” Unique touches abound in the team’s other projects; at Windsor, the design combines vintage interior materials—such as mid-century Dutch school chairs and reclaimed window frame mirrors from New York’s Flatiron building—with quirky touches like a massive wall of cassette tapes in the hallway connecting Windsor’s dining room to Churn. 

 “We don’t go into it having everything figured out,” Grabe says. “It’s an organic process.”

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