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Thread: Adaptive reuse of a historic warehouse and a depot

  1. #1
    Jul 2005
    somewhere, or nowhere

    Adaptive reuse of a historic warehouse and a depot

    Both of these buildings are located in a small rural town which has about 3,000 residents with relative low income and high unemployment rate. They have various needs, such as jobs, youth activities, senior housing, and recreational facilities.

    The warehouse has some historic significance because it served a Fortune 500 company (a huge pride of a small town). The train depot is very small, narrow and long, with minimal architectural value.

    Can anybody provide some examples about how small rural towns renovate warehouses and train depots that don't have significant architectural values?

    We struggled quite a bit about both of these projects. Somebody proposed a performing arts center for the warehouse but the city has kept the proposal on hold. Our team does not like the idea of a performing arts center in such a rural small town. Our focus is in jobs and fundamental elements of the quality of life. We propose a mixed-use structure (commercial & senior housing; or commercial & community center; or commercial & company hall of fame; or commercial & job training center) for the warehouse. We want the Depot to be a farmers' market and a restaurant. But the city also encourages us to think big and try to create some local attractions. The city is also concerned about post-project operational issues.

    So any comments?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Aug 2001
    The Cheese State
    Thinking beyond the 3000 people in teh community, how large is the potential market? What uses might be commercially viable. I worked on a project that converted a mill building to a very successful restaurant in a community of 1500 people, but with a metro area 20 miles away and significant tourist traffic to sites a half hour in the other direction.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Mar 2005
    London, UK
    Just some ideas off the top of my head (but I'm not a developer):

    MULTI-USE - Some cafes/restaurants plus retail on the ground floor for street-level, everyday flow and income; a museum (or two) with a vintage car / sports theme (i.e. fun for locals) on the first floor up to generate out-of-town trips. A decent collection of vintage cars (or anything similar) can be put together for a non-astronomical budget and almost everyone likes them. And then either professional offices or residential on upper stories.

    If there is a type of retail/small-scale retail/wholesale business that is not very well to ok represented locally but would have a market (for instance: furniture, shoes, whatever), gather a number of retailers/wholesalers in the same building (plus the obligatory cafe/bistro, etc.). With a minimum of advertising, people for miles around will come to know that if you are buying X or in the market for it you need to go to the old warehouse for a lot of selection / good deals.

    D'you have a picture of the building / setting.

    If the Railroad depot is crappy, just tear her down and build one of those roof-only farmers' markets / civic spaces maybe?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    May 2005
    New Town
    Not knowing where you are located and what other regional populations you might draw from (or the likliehood of tourist traffic), its hard to get too specific. It sounds, though, like you are looking for opportunities to stimulate economic development as a top priority. I have a couple of thoughts:

    You could combine the senior center and/or other social services-type activities with a small business incubator in different parts of the building, for example. Similarly, or in conjunction, the incubator could be linked to SMALL storefront businesses such that a business apprenticing with the program could have space to operate out of for a specified period of time while they learn and get direction in the details of running their enterprise. They would then need to move on to make space for a new group.

    This could be tweaked in a number of related ways as well, including, say, a farmers market in the place of the incubator (senior housing would probably work well with the farmers market) and then small, affordable retail spaces that could provide opportunities for local entrepreneurs. In Santa Fe, the railyard area has been converted to a year-round farmers market as well as a number of art and cultural museum spaces. Its all a bit rundown and funky (looking for a facelift one of these days), but it functions very well - the place is really hopping even though architecturally it is rather unremarkable and a good deal of the spaces are simply metal warehouse buildings. Keep in mind, though, that the Santa Fe population has many wealthy people with a lot of expendable income, so this may not fly everywhere.

    Regardless, I would put some thought into uses that promote active use by the general public (ie. not just an office building and not just a senior center, though the latter makes for a good component). My personal preference is for small retail spaces that allow for a wide range of small enterprises to both make it affordable and increase the range of offerings that might attract people to the space - everything from hardware basics to ice cream, for example.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  5. #5
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
    Sep 2001
    skating on thin ice
    As noted, in this instance location and proximity is everything.

    A few ideas

    1) Live/work/gallery space for artists ( http://www.torontoartscape.on.ca/). But this will only work if there is a market for the goods and enough people to get it and keep it going.

    2) Gov't offices - try convincing the state or city that renovating and renting the office space will be good for them and the community (Gibson's Mill, Fredericton)
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  6. #6
    Feb 2007
    just back from a massive dog fight session
    Appleby-in-Westmorland, UK, pop. c.2500 (but acts as service town for wider rural community)

    The town's train station had a small old train shed and sidings that were renovated and converted for community use. It is now Appleby Heritage Centre and offers training and employment opportunites. The facility also carries out refurbishment of old train carriages and engines.

    Not sure of the scale of your warehouse and depot, I suspect like everything over there its about 684 times the size of anything we have here and the above suggestion is pointless...

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