With inflation at its highest level in 40 years, demand in New York City pantries is up more than 14% since the start of this year, on top of increased usage since the start of the pandemic in 2020. City Harvest, a food relief organization that stocks food pantries and soup kitchens in all five boroughs, responded to the increased need with a new headquarters that houses the organization’s offices, in addition to rescue and food delivery operations, an event space and a demonstration kitchen. The new 150,000 square foot facility, the Cohen Community Food Rescue Center in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, is housed in a former warehouse used to service trains in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A redesign of the historic timber-framed structure led by Ennead Architects alongside hotel design firm Rockwell Group and New York-based Ware Malcomb resulted in a design that is both community-focused and energy-efficient .
Prior to the completion of this new location, City Harvest’s largest distribution center was located in a borough of Long Island City. This new center includes double the square footage of the previous one, with more space for food refrigeration, packaging and loading. The revamped warehouse responds to the neighborhood’s industrial past while incorporating contemporary elements through eye-catching graphics and illuminated interiors. Taking a lightweight approach, the architects retained much of the existing structure and brickwork, added white paint throughout, and kept the mechanical elements exposed. To maximize natural lighting in the building, the design team unmasked several of the long-covered clerestory windows that line the roof of the warehouse.
While the building is designed to benefit the community it serves, a number of sustainable upgrades also allow it to help the environment: features include solar panels, composting and recycling streams , energy-efficient lighting, electric charging stations, radiant heating and cooling systems, and the integration of recycled materials such as concrete, brick, paving and metals. The project is aiming for LEED Gold certification.
“City Harvest’s new home reflects the power and purpose of their mission. Ennead is proud to have transformed a beautiful historic warehouse into a state-of-the-art workplace, community resource and environmentally friendly distribution center with extensive food salvage capabilities,” said Richard Olcott, partner of Ennead, in a press release. “We believe the most sustainable building is one that is already there, so our design approach was informed by the potential already existing in this building, which we revitalized and filled with daylight to create an open and welcoming environment. for everyone. ”
The insertion of a series of cubicles and desks for City Harvest’s office and administrative operations required working around the existing location of the branching wooden columns spaced throughout the interior. To differentiate the areas inside, Ennead added a large black steel staircase and several slatted screens.
In the role of reference architect, Ware Malcomb worked on the logistics programming, a central operation of the building and its purpose, designing the seven loading docks for the import and export of food, as well as large spaces for product packaging and storage. . Rockwell Group designed the event space, a demonstration kitchen and the rooftop lounge, all using reclaimed materials.
The restaurant-like space is both flexible and decorative, designed to accommodate both renowned chefs and community programs. At the heart of the kitchen, a massive copper hood descends over the long wooden island shaped to accommodate events. Green tones, seen in the tiling and light fixtures, complement the dark wood shelving and dining room furniture. Old reclaimed wood from northeast barns, arranged in a herringbone pattern on the floor, is accented with a patch of dark terracotta.
“The Rockwell Group was thrilled to help City Harvest celebrate this incredible milestone in its growth and mission,” added David Rockwell, Founder and Chairman of The Rockwell Group. “Our warm and inviting event space and demonstration kitchen allow City Harvest to add an entirely new element to its services, engaging the community around food and dining, celebrating the theatricality of food and providing a welcoming space that chefs and guests want to discover. .”
An additional rooftop event and dining area houses a Rockwell-designed grill for cooking, recycled plastic furniture, and a large mural painted by local artist Natasha May Platt. Art features prominently throughout the Cohen Community Food Rescue Center, with large-scale artwork and graphics commissioned for walls in offices and food distribution rooms.
Since 1982, City Harvest has generously served communities across New York City. With this new facility, the charity will be able to double its storage and distribution capacity across the city. This year alone, City Harvest will save and deliver 75 million pounds of food.
“City Harvest was born when a handful of New Yorkers stepped up to fight food waste and hunger at the same time and help feed their neighbors in need. Forty years later, our food rescue operation has passed from the back of a station wagon to becoming a New York City mainstay, saving and delivering over a billion pounds of food to our neighbors in need,” said Jilly Stephens, CEO of City Harvest. As emergency food needs continue to remain well above pre-pandemic levels, our new sustainable headquarters will help us meet the needs of our city – one day, one meal, one New Yorker at that time.”