Music Venue Conversion – Brooklyn Steel

From the foundation to the production grid to the outside facade, McLaren Engineering Group was part of the music venue conversion of Brooklyn Steel. To minimize escaping sound that could disrupt the neighborhood, McLaren engineered a custom green roof for this adaptive reuse project. The team also designed a new moving stage that allows the space to adapt to different sized crowds.

The McLaren Difference: Applied Ingenuity

McLaren provided structural and geotechnical engineering services for the conversion of this industrial site into a 1,800-person music venue at 319 Frost Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The renovation increased the load of the foundation elements more than the 5%, so a geotechnical report was required. To save cost, McLaren limited the geotechnical investigation to the impacted 8,000 square feet.

Several unique features were engineered for this dynamic venue, including a:

  • New Green Roof and Acoustic Treatment: Minimizing the sound emitted outside the venue was a concern. The existing masonry walls proved to be great at absorbing sound, but the existing thin metal deck roof was a weak point. Multiple concepts were considered, and ultimately team decided to construct a new green roof over the existing roof. The new 10,000 square feet roof acts as an “acoustic lid” above the venue portion of the building, as the vegetation mass on the green roof dampens the sound. New York City Building Code has restrictions on raising the height of existing buildings but has allowances when adding a green roof.

  • Moveable Stage: A new moving stage (approximately 21 feet deep by 40 feet wide), that the venue can position upstage and downstage up to 30 feet was designed. The stage is constructed of a concrete deck on a steel frame and weighs over 60,000 pounds. This allows the stage to handle the heavy live loads needed to accommodate the different performances and modern productions. Despite the weight, the stage can be easily moved due to the use of a winch and rollers, giving the venue the ability to provide a more intimate space for smaller acts.
  • Production Grid Plans: The production grid has the ability to translate upstage/downstage to match the stage’s movement. The plans developed provide multiple scenarios of varying weight, allowing maximum flexibility for the client.
  • Gantry: There are three existing gantries in the space. Two were modified to facilitate architectural design. The third gantry, containing a 5-ton unit over the audience was evaluated for use to support audio points and lighting positions. The gantry tows a portion of the Production Grid upstage/downstage.
  • New Mezzanines: The three new mezzanines and their connecting stairs were specifically analyzed for floor vibrations that are inflicted by dancing. All areas were configured to provide the best sightlines and crowd flow.
  • Gravity and Lateral System Analysis: The building’s existing structural framing gravity and lateral system for the additional loads due were evaluated for the proposed renovations. Reinforcement solutions were developed for the upgrade of the existing girders and details to upgrade/modify the existing x-bracing lateral system to support the increase in seismic loads and to work around the new architectural requirements.
  • Slab-on-Grade Modifications: McLaren designed the modifications to the existing slab-on-grade, which included the following solutions:
    • Repair details for existing slab-on-grade to remain.
    • Slab replacement details for locations in need.
    • Raised floor details, where the audience is elevated a foot and a half, for improved sightlines.
    • Lobby entry mezzanine and service platform, including new “grand” stair.
  • Elevator: A new elevator enclosure, elevator pit, and elevator bulkhead were engineered.
  • New Interior Full-Height Walls: New full-height walls that border the performance space, and create an acoustic barrier between the performance space and surrounding spaces were designed.
  • Façade: Details were designed for new façade openings, allowing for the increased occupancy and improved egress.
  • Exterior Mechanical Platform: A new steel dunnage system to support two new mechanical HVAC units on the roof was designed. This included design of the catwalk system surrounding the units.
  • Other Elements: Developed miscellaneous details for:
    • Light-Gage interior wall design.
    • Typical MEP support details for ductwork and light equipment.
    • Repairs to existing structure (cracks in walls, steel corrosion, etc.).

In 2018 this conversion project won the ​AIA Brooklyn + Queen Design Awards – BQDA Brooklyn People’s Choice Award, the Pollstar Awards Best New Concert Venue and was named 1 of the best live music venues in America by Rolling Stone Magazine.