RBW launches design and manufacturing center on former IBM campus

The more than $200 million transformation of the former IBM megacampus just outside the city of Kingston, New York, into a mixed-use cultural and creative hub reached a major milestone this week with the grand opening of the RBW Factory, a 100,000-square-foot design and production facility for independent lighting design and manufacturing brand Rich Brilliant Willing, better known as RBW.

RBW’s move from Brooklyn to the Hudson Valley marks a “new chapter of growth” for the award-winning lighting company, which was first established in New York in 2007 by friends and fellow RISD graduates Theo Richardson, Charles Brill and Alexander Williams. The state-of-the-art facility, housed inside a 1950s structure that once served as a cavernous customer service call center for IBM, allows RBW to maintain all of its operations – product design, manufacturing, execution – under one collaborative roof.

“We’ve long drawn inspiration from some of Europe’s most visionary manufacturing campuses that reflect a thoughtful and holistic approach to planning a company’s footprint,” said Williams, who is partner and chief growth officer. , in a press release. “The new facility will create a space where our operations, our people and the brand can thrive.”

(© 2022 Eric Petschek)

“Kingston’s traditional manufacturing history provides a fertile foundation for the innovation-driven industry, which made it an immediate choice for RBW’s newest chapter,” added RBW Partner Richardson, who owns the title of Chief Innovation Officer.

Despite the move to the Hudson Valley, RBW’s flagship SoHo showroom at 50 Green Street isn’t going anywhere and will continue to serve as a focal point for the brand. The fast-growing company, as mentioned, was previously headquartered and maintained manufacturing facilities in Brooklyn and additional space in New Jersey.

After acquiring the former IBM building in August 2021, RBW quickly got to work transforming the long-vacant space. Local firm Dutton Architecture and architect Neil Logan were tapped to spearhead the $5 million adaptive reuse project, with the latter spearheading the building’s interior transformation, populating it with pieces from brands like Artifort, Artek, Fritz Hansen and Knoll as well as bespoke -designed tables, chairs and crates in solid maple with white Corian tops to “blend seamlessly into the factory’s architecture,” a press release detailed.

Both natural and artificial lighting, of course, plays a major role in the transformation of the sprawling former call center, which in its new life features 16 glass skylights, energy-efficient LEDs, daylight harvesting strategies and dimming controls for additional energy. savings. “The building’s new design emphasizes its natural surroundings, highlighting a connection to light and air while maintaining a minimal ecological footprint by repurposing an existing structure,” RBW explained.

exterior of a low rise industrial building with grass in the foreground
(© 2022 Oresti Tsonopoulos)

Notably, RBW is participating in part of the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability/Research i4.0 pilot program for New York-based manufacturers, an initiative that will support the company as it expands its operations through “the digital soil automation, strategy and governance, workforce learning and development, and business intelligence. As noted by RBW, the i4.0 framework “will attract top talent and enable RBW to become a leader in manufacturing automation and data exchange, including collaborative robots, cloud, and software. ‘cognitive computing, and create the future of smart factories’.

Seeing a massive influx of newcomers to the city during the pandemic, Kingston (IBM’s former campus is technically located in nearby Ulster) has a storied history as a hotbed of innovation in the River Valley. ‘Hudson thanks in part to the long-standing presence of IBM, which was once Ulster County’s largest employer.

a long corridor of offices in a factory building
(© 2022 Eric Petschek)

The New York-based multinational tech giant moved out of Ulster County in the late 1990s and over the next few decades the campus, rebranded in its post-IBM years as TechCity, flopped. Much of the massive site has fallen into a state of disrepair and environmental degradation, going from regional economic powerhouse to economic liability in the space of just a few years.

The transfer of 18 parcels in the eastern part of the degraded site to Connecticut-based developer National Resources finalized last June officially paved the way for a redevelopment project known as iPark87. (The building that is now the RBW factory was not part of the sale and is located just across Boices Lane from the main redevelopment area/former IBM campus.) National Resources specializes in the revival of abandoned industrial campuses, its portfolio includes another former IBM complex across the Hudson River in East Fishkill, now known as iPark84. Plans to transfer ownership of the 258-acre western section of the campus to National Resources are expected to be completed by the end of this year.

view of a busy manufacturing space
(© 2022 Eric Petschek)

The larger redevelopment plan adjacent to RBW’s just-opened global headquarters is ambitious and includes 500 much-needed housing (since reduced), a hotel, cultural hall, brewery and food hall, film studio and many others. over several phases.

As for RBW, its newly established presence in the Kingston area precedes a long-awaited sea change in this burgeoning mid-Hudson Valley pocket.

“We put innovation at the forefront of all our endeavors and let that mindset guide us,” said Charles Brill, Managing Partner of RBW. “Whether it’s honoring our B Corp commitment and positively impacting the planet and our community, or establishing a state-of-the-art Industry 4.0 factory, we plan to be at the frontier of it all.”

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