flying star cafe

Case Study: flying star cafe

albuquerque, nm

project description

Restaurant on ground floor and mezzanine levels

project + design objectives

Repurposing the historic Southern Gas Company building was part of the first phase of our Silver Lofts development in downtown Albuquerque, which was a three-phase effort for developing live/work loft housing anchored by a commercial tenant in the gas company building. The Flying Star Cafe was the perfect tenant for the location. It’s a fantastic full-service restaurant and the owners always create wonderfully designed interior spaces. Repurposing the building also included turning the basement level into a modern, open-plan business office.

The building was designed by John Gaw Meem and is historically significant. We successfully applied to get the building put on the historic register with help from New Mexico historian Chris Wilson, who wrote a book on Meem’s life and work.

Flying Star hired its own architect and interior design firm for its tenant improvements, so we had the added challenge of coordinating between the two design teams, but with regular and effective communication, everything went smoothly.

Normally, construction doesn’t start until you have all your approvals, but we were working on a tight timeframe, so were doing everything at once. It was a bit challenging, but we got it done.


Any time you’re dealing with a full repurposing of an old or historic building, you learn a lot. And this wasn’t a simple building—there were many issues, including tax credits for the renovation, abatement, financing, and the challenges of construction being done in a tight area. But everything was challenging about that site, nothing was easy—so it was a really good, quick introduction to working in an urban fabric.

My proudest achievement on this project was having repurposed an incredible building with such a great history. Having been brought up in three houses designed by Meem, I appreciate all the design choices he made that make being in one of his buildings such a different and interesting experience. That particular building is very cool and being able to purchase it and bring in such a great use that gives people so much pleasure—I think I’m most satisfied with that.

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