Ex-American soldier club turned into public space for music, food

The former club, built in the 1950s and named Grass Mountain Teen Club in 1968, is now called “Brick Yard 33 1/3 (BY33).” Fusing indoor and outdoor spaces for creative enterprises, it’s a place where visitors can listen to old vinyl records, eat southern American food, and savor the nostalgic atmosphere emanating from the old red bricks.

The BY33 project was undertaken under the Old House renaissance program launched by the Taipei government in 2012.

Under the program, private investors are encouraged to join the government’s drive to restore old “cultural properties” of the city that have been abandoned and “revive” them by transforming them into cultural and creative spaces for the public.

In 2014, U-Tech Media Corp. won a public tender issued by the city government to renovate the old American soldier club, which consisted of red brick buildings and two swimming pools on a nearly 3,300-square meter site on a Yangmingshan hillside.

The compound, which was part of a cluster of dormitories for American military personnel stationed in Taiwan, was a key leisure site of the soldiers and their family members in the 1950s and ’60s.

At the BY33 opening ceremony on Thursday, U-Tech Media Chairman Chang Chao-fan (張昭焚) said the company budgeted NT$70 million (US$2.22 million) to restore the old compound but eventually spent NT$95 million because it wanted the renovation to be as close to perfection as possible.

Gordon Yeh (葉垂景), chairman of the Ritek Group, which founded U-Tech Media, said the company was determined to restore the old buildings using their original structural and construction techniques, and it scoured the country for older builders with knowledge of traditional skills to assist in the project.

His team eventually managed to locate the tile factory that produced the roof tiles used when the club was remodeled over 30 years ago and found more than 10,000 of the same tiles still in the factory’s inventory, Yeh said.

After more than two years of construction, the American club was transformed into a multipurpose complex divided into three areas: one for dining and drinks, one for enjoying music where people can play vinyl records, and one for a pub.

There are also plenty of indoor and outdoor spaces for exhibitions or performances, according to U-Tech Media.

“Wu hope to attract local communities, schools and other organizations to this site,” said U-Tech general manager Lo Yi-fu (羅宜富).

“We built an exclusive space for people to listen to vinyl records and hold music performances, enabling old and new music, western and oriental music, to come together here.”

BY33 is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. except for Jan. 27 and 28 during the Lunar New Year holiday. Access may be restricted when there are exclusive activities, but admission is free.

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