Hi-Mark is one of those projects that feels like it just went on forever, yet the final product was oh-so worth it! The planning for this project goes back to late 2014 when Nick Motz approached us with an interesting challenge: a dilapidated, historic home in an economically depressed area of the East End that was also part of the restricted flood zone. We thought it was exactly the sort of crazy, impossible project that we regularly stake our reputation on. The end result is a bar that evokes history, neighborhood vibes, and grit in a one-of-a-kind space.
Starting with the empty shell of the building, we made the decision to remove the existing floors and shift the first floor up 3 feet. This move solved the problem of being 2' into the flood plain, yet created all sorts of new challenges and interesting conditions. We cut away portions of of the first floor and a huge section of the 2nd floor to make an upper mezzanine. By pulling the floors away from the walls, you get little surprises like sunken window sills, peak-throughs, and a floating fire place. The steel work itself is an impressive feat, executed superbly by our friend Kyle Freeman of Steel-It. Out back is a new addition that houses the kitchen, cold storage, and the restrooms, as well as a quiet, sunny deck.
It was a very deliberate decision to leave the space as raw as possible, with the original brick, wood joists, mechanical systems, and new steel structure exposed and on full display. This really cements the history of the space, and provided a blank, gritty backdrop for Pho Lang Thang and Eli's to create their concept. This was elemental to their final branding, which references the 1937 flood that came 79.9' above the shores of the Ohio. The name Hi-Mark refers to this historic flood, which is marked on the side of the building, over 10' above the original doorstep. The space feels almost like it had been wiped away in this flood, only to be rebuilt into the space it is today.
If you ever want to get nerdy with us, this project was a Rubik's Cube of code difficulties. From the flood zone requirements established by FEMA, to the conversion of an existing residential building into a bar and restaurant, to ADA access and everything in-between. We learned a lot along the way, and came out the other side knowing way too much about flood-proofing, hydrostatic vs. hydrodynamic forces, and what the B.F.E. is.. (Base Flood Elevation)
It's almost 3 years since it all began, but it's finally open! So go visit, get some chicken wings, play some games, and hang out with a drink on the patio. We promise that when you're there, you won't notice all of those technical issues (we can never escape it though.) All you'll notice is a neighborhood bar that feels strangely new and old, is both gritty yet smart, and that stands out by feeling like it was always there.