Updated uses for historic spaces

Two restorations in Bridgeport, Conn., benefitted from a new dustproofer for interior brick without leaving a shine.

Not everyone saw the potential in two completely run-down former factories in Bridgeport, Conn., a town situated at the mouth of the Pequonnock River on Long Island Sound, about 60 miles northeast of Manhattan.

Many developers would have taken one look at the decrepit masonry, all the broken glass and the requirements to remediate and remove hazardous materials, and opted to tear all of it down to build something from scratch.

Two buildings in Bridgeport, Conn., were restored into a charter school and apartments.

But the long-abandoned buildings at 375 Howard Avenue and nearby Cherry Street, whose historical industrial purposes “involved the extensive use of oils, solvents, acids and metals,” held promise for Gary Flocco, managing partner for Corvus Capital, an international investment firm.

His firm seemed particularly well-positioned to adapt the properties into updated, upcycled uses – they had experience with brownfield (land or property requiring remediation) projects in the past, and on ones involving historic tax credits. As someone who takes pride in seeing potential where others don’t, Flocco and his partners were ready to take it on.

Adapting structures to meet modern needs

Bridgeport is not unlike other cities across New England and the U.S. Over several decades in the 20th century, industrial demand vanished and businesses shut down. But the remnants remained in the form of old factories and warehouses just sitting there, suffering from atrophy and causing blight to communities.


And just like many other towns like it, Bridgeport is bouncing back. It entered a period of revitalization around the start of the 21st century of its downtown and other neighborhoods in need of investment.

For this undertaking, the restoration was two-fold: Part 1 was converting the Howard Avenue building (which formerly housed the American Graphophone Company) into a facility for the town’s Great Oaks Charter School. The three-story building includes 70,000 square feet of space for classrooms and a cafeteria, while 23,000 square feet are devoted to residential apartments for the school’s tutors.

Adjacent to this building on nearby Cherry Street is the second part of the development – Cherry Street Lofts, 157 units of workforce housing in a space previously occupied by a foundry. 

In conformance with historical restoration guidelines and in keeping with the owners’ desire, the interior walls of floor-to-ceiling red brick were to be retained and featured as part of the new interior aesthetic of both buildings.


But when the centuries-old brick interiors started creating dust, Flocco knew he needed a quick solution to dustproof the tenants’ living spaces and students’ school environment. 

However, a condition of this historical retrofit was to maintain an authentic finish on the brick, not an overly polished one.

“We wanted to keep the brick looking natural and organic, and not leaving any shine or sheen,” Flocco said.

Other dustproofing products on the market that are appropriate for interior use wouldn’t meet standards for aesthetics and performance – some leave a glossy film on the substrate, and others create an impermeable layer on the substrate that can easily trap and seal moisture into the walls.

The painting contractor on the case was Ray Jerry, who’s worked on enough historic retrofit projects to have seen plenty of brick like this that’s “been around since the beginning of time.”

“The owner was looking for a warehouse look, so none of the brick is painted, the beams are all exposed,” Jerry said.

He was confident that the issue of the dusty walls was solvable. His crew was working with a new product from PROSOCO called Interior Masonry Dustproofer. Ideal for interior applications, this product not only is certified by SCS Indoor Advantage Gold for indoor air quality, it’s also Living Building Challenge-ready because it does not contain any Red List ingredients.

Considering his crew was using a product they had never applied before and working on the fly, there were lots of opportunities for things to go wrong. But thankfully, Jerry’s applicators found the product extremely easy to use and made the dustproofing process simple. 

“It’s very easy to do, it’s user-friendly, and it works,” he said. “It does what it’s supposed to do.”

Jerry won’t be surprised to be using Interior Masonry Dustproofer again on future restoration projects in his region.

“On historic projects, they want an authentic feel, they don’t want it shiny,” he said. “The look (of Interior Masonry Dustproofer) was very natural. It’s the way to go if you’re looking for that.”


Anchor Systems

Saved from the brink of destruction

Uncared for and unoccupied for 18 years, Cook County Hospital in Chicago was ready for demo. Trees and plants growing inside and out, broken pipes, shattered window glass and a flooded basement belied the grandeur once embodied in this historic Beaux-Arts building with a virtuous legacy. Built in 1914, Cook[…]


Carnegie Library reimagined for a new use

In 2019, the Carnegie Library re-opened to the public with a re-imagined design and purpose in Washington, D.C., as the Apple Carnegie Library. Originally unveiled in 1903 as a gift from Andrew Carnegie, the building features a spectacular exterior of Vermont Danby Marble and Milford Granite and an interior with[…]

Hard Surface Care

Painting masonry – how to do it the right way

Painting brick or other masonry can be a great thing - it can help a building meet a desired aesthetic, provide UV resistance, reduce deterioration and make it easier to clean. But, like all things, there's a wrong way to do it, which increases the likelihood of call-backs and headaches[…]


Incredible Makeovers For Decaying Buildings

There are countless reasons why a building goes into disrepair. Sometimes the construction is faulty, sometimes natural disasters cause damage, but most of the time they fall out of use or change ownership and get forgotten. It's a shame that every building isn't protected or preserved, but sometimes time just isn't kind to[…]

Anchor Systems

A place of their own

St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lawrence, Kan., is a story worth preserving. This is the place where civil rights activists gathered in the 1960s to organize protests and marches in downtown Lawrence, Kan. It’s the place where famed poet Langston Hughes attended Sunday church service with his “Auntie[…]

Anchor Systems

Cost-effective seismic masonry retrofits can offset earthquake damage

It’s often thought that retrofitting homes and buildings to better withstand seismic activity and damage from earthquakes is an extremely expensive effort. Although unreinforced masonry (URM) failure is a main cause of death as well as the high price tag associated with quakes, it would be prohibitive to replace all[…]

Canal Dock Boathouse header image

Air & Water Barriers

Protecting against the elements in coastal Connecticut

Rowing at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., is a tradition as old as just about any collegiate sport in the nation. The first intercollegiate event ever held in the U.S. was in 1852, when Yale challenged Harvard to a regatta. For a tradition whose history runs so deep, the[…]