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Breathing Life into a Former Big-Box Store

Amidst the ever-changing retail landscape, former big-box stores are transforming into blank canvases with untapped potential for creative reinvention. Located on Madison’s west side, the former big box store SteinMart, initially crafted by Iconcia, drew the interest of Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR). The location, ample parking, and central accessibility to the communities it caters to influenced their decision to reinvent this 30,000 SF space.

Overcoming Design Challenges:

Big box stores present a unique design challenge with high ceilings, expansive interiors, and a lack of natural daylight. Our designers embraced these difficulties by employing several tricks to minimize the impacts. They played with the scale and direction of the flooring and lined the way with seating areas and colorful “brims” that distinguish their location. 

Introducing interior windows in the meeting spaces and studios allows blind corners to be mitigated. It offers tantalizing glimpses of what is happening inside, creating a sense of connection and overall cohesiveness to the facility. 

Interior clerestory windows were also introduced in the lobby to bring the natural light and sky views from the existing glass vestibule into the administrative suite. Their colorful drywall frames also serve as a welcoming graphic punch to the space.

Community-Centric Design: 

MSCR-West’s lobby and corridors serve as a living testament to their mission. Photo murals unfold like chapters, showcasing the richness of MSCR’s programs and the vibrant tapestry of communities they embrace. Along with the bold, textured carpeting and dramatic pendant light clusters, the murals play a significant role in taming the large lobby size, creating defined sitting “rooms.”

Wander through the corridor next to the half-court gym, and you’ll be greeted by a mural celebrating the spirit of Madison Metropolitan School District’s high school athletes, past and present, hoping to inspire the next generation of competitors. 


As we witness the rebirth of these once-commercial spaces, it becomes evident that the art of adaptive reuse is not only about transforming buildings but also about revitalizing the spirit of the neighborhoods they inhabit. MSCR West offers programs for all ages. See the final photography here.

Professional Photography by Crimson Sun Studios 

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