The Atlantic Design Works consists of the 1860 “Gasometer”—a 50 foot diameter, two-story brick rotunda with a trussed, heavy timber roof, and the early 20th century triangular addition at the corner of Manton Ave and Aleppo Street. It originally served as a natural gas storage tank for the innovative new gas-lamps at the new Atlantic Mill across the street. As that technology lost its luster, the building was used largely for storage throughout the 20th century. In the early 2000s a woman’s art collective began renovating the building, and using it as an opportunity to display public art.
In 2015, the building underwent its latest transformation into a collection of offices of designs and creatives. The building was fully renovated, with new historic-replica windows, modern heating and cooling systems, and translucent polycarbonate sliding walls.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Within a week of starting his first architecture job after college, Eric Army quickly learned the extent of the decisions clients actually make in the design process. And at that point he realized he would need to be come the developer if he wanted to have the world-changing impact he dreamed about in architecture school.
In 2011 Eric had the opportunity to start Studio MEJA Architecture, a firm that would develop an expertise in adaptive re-use of historic buildings and working with community-based organizations. While creating great architectural designs with his clients, this afforded him a front-row seat to how his clients dealt with challenging building-reuse decisions, and how they meaningfully approached community engagement.
The year after starting Studio MEJA, he took his first step into the world of development, starting Wide Plank Properties—an organization that would buy and rehabilitate under-appreciated properties with unrealized potential, with an eye towards strengthening their communities. This started with rehabilitating historic multi-family residential properties on the West Side of Providence, which allowed the company to gain practical rehab experience in a proven market segment.
In 2015, with his architecture firm out-growing the shipping container they occupied at the Box Office, he stumbled upon the Atlantic Gasometer for sale. After falling in love with the 50 foot diameter brick rotunda, a plan quickly came together for how this building could combine his design, development and community passions.
The result has been the Atlantic Design Works.