Optimist Hall Charlotte redevelopment, NC commercial building, US architecture images

Optimist Hall in Charlotte, North Carolina

April 16, 2021

Architects: Square Feet Studio

Location: former North Highland Mill, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Optimist Hall Charlotte NC

Photos by Keith Isaacs

Optimist Hall in Charlotte

The Food Hall at Optimist Hall is part of the larger 60,000 SF adaptive reuse of the historic North Highland Mill in Charlotte, NC, which specialized in textile manufacturing from the 1880s through the 1990s. Perkins + Will was the architect for the core and shell and we were engaged to design the common areas of the food hall, including stall layout, FF&E, and design of the courtyard dining area. Our Charlotte building project design draws heavily from the history of the building and the ghostly memories that permeate its spaces.

Optimist Hall Charlotte NC

The primary design challenge was to scale the large open historic factory floor down to the experience of the individual patron, while also respecting the historic building and avoiding interventions into the original architecture which might leave a permanent trace.

Optimist Hall Charlotte NC

Optimist Hall Charlotte NC

For this reason, we used furniture to create architectural experience and effect. Picnic tables made of reclaimed heart pine factory flooring are integrated with an overhead armature to create smaller dining spaces within the larger building.

Optimist Hall Charlotte NC

Repurposed old factory windows found in the basement along with light translucent woven scrims are used to create partition screens around intimate 8’ x 8’ “micro lounges,” utilizing the building’s original structural module designed to fit common weaving and spinning equipment of the time. Decorative lighting in the food hall is entirely composed of reclaimed factory pendants, also found in the basement, which are rewired and otherwise largely left in their found and aged condition.

Optimist Hall Charlotte NC

The courtyard features an array of decidedly southern Magnolia trees planted in herringbone-patterned wood planter boxes. Hand-crafted cypress furniture lines the exterior edges of the old mill building while lightweight and playfully colored metal furniture is scattered within a central graveled area, making sweet subtle reference to an image of 20th century post-war yard parties conjured by the gingham fabric traditionally produced in the factory.

Optimist Hall Charlotte NC

Optimist Hall Charlotte NC

Scope of work details

• Optimist Hall was once a gingham textile mill and later a pantyhose factory
• We salvaged the composite cylinders used in the hosiery manufacturing process and repurposed them as planters throughout the project
• We repurposed existing RLM pendants found on site, cleaned them up, rewired them and got them up to code for reuse
• We salvaged the building’s old wood windows, stabilized them with new steel frames and repurposed them as partitions between dining areas
• We master-planned the food hall, including reviewing food stall design from local architects
• We laid-out all food stalls, indoor and outdoor dining areas, and circulation spaces
• We designed the courtyard, including the lighting system, and specified the outdoor furniture
• We designed custom furniture pieces for the dining and lounge areas
• We selected and specified antique, new, and custom lounge furniture in the retail and restaurant wing
• We designed the built-in wood canopies around the dining areas
• We designed two-layer sheer scrims between dining areas with a ‘gingham effect’ that provides privacy and pattern, allowing light to pass through. These scrims recall the hosiery once produced in the building.
• We designed the Archer Paper retail space within the complex
• We provided overall design direction and consulted on the landscape design as well as the signage design, reviewing design by others on the owners’ behalf

Optimist Hall in Charlotte, NC – Building Information

Design: Square Feet Studio

Project size: 60000 ft2
Completion date: 2020

Optimist Hall Charlotte NC

Optimist Hall Charlotte NC

Photography: Keith Isaacs

Optimist Hall, Charlotte, North Carolina images / information received 160421 from Square Feet Studio USA

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

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