Adaptive Reuse

'Sanctuary Condos'

Project Manager/Designer: Eugene Drubestskoy, Robert M. Scarano jr.

Completion Date: May 2008

Location: Fort Greene, Brooklyn


The Sanctuary Condominium at 264-266 Cumberland Street is an adaptive re-use conversion of an early 20th century Neo-Gothic church long abandoned, and its adjacent rectory building located in the heart of the Landmark district of Fort Greene. Located on Cumberland Avenue, between Lafayette and DeKalb avenues, it is also in close proximity to Fort Greene Park. The two attached four-story buildings have been designed to include 13 apartments, and each one utilizes an organic aspect of the church from the beamed ceilings throughout to the arches in the main sanctuary. A rooftop extension was designed to maximize the property’s potential while maintaining a discrete profile from the street. Originally built as Our Lady of Pillar Catholic Church in 1915, the church and attached rectory buildings have housed various churches over the years and were eventually abandoned by the last congregation in 2003. With the advent of a new use and purpose, the condominiums were completed with a refurbished façade that respects and maintains the quality of this landmark. With its new use, the building is being utilized again in a vital and dynamic way and the community is further reinforced. The main design concept was twofold: first, to create the conversion of a spiritual place into modern residences with full respect to their functional utilitarian needs; and second, to preserve the unique aura of the space and its surroundings. Together, these two concepts enable the new use of the old structure to become an organic part of the streetscape. During the course of the alteration, new light frame partitions and walls were introduced without compromising the original basilica structure, which remains the core of the entire building. In the lower floors, the former sanctuary space manifests itself in the form of exposed heavy timber beams. On the upper floors, original gothic roof rafters and braces are fully exposed, which, in combination with the rose stained glass windows, communicate each apartment’s unique grandeur. An abandoned church has a stultifying affect on its street, as well as the overall fabric of the neighborhood. The adaptive re-use of this building represents a substantial renewal of the community, encouraging future projects to respect existing buildings even when the option to tear down and rebuild exists. Creating a residential sanctuary in a former religious domain has provided a beautiful addition to its immediate area in historic Fort Greene.