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Adaptive Reuse of Industrial Buildings: Benefits and Applications

Adaptive Reuse
As the American economy evolves and the needs of consumers change, there has been a growing interest in shopping local. Perhaps one of the most significant reactions to an age of online shopping has been the revitalization of small retail spaces across the county. In many ways, this makes sense — while Amazon and others can offer the savings and convenience of a suburban, big-box retailer, they can’t replicate the personal, curated touch of a local general store.

We see similar trends in all aspects of the economy — startups are using intimate urban office spaces to attract and retain key talent, while service providers are paying increasing attention to the role a well-designed storefront can play in separating them from the competition. In short, as we become more connected online, people are craving more meaningful face-to-face interactions, which are facilitated by the places they live and work.

As all this has happened, urban landscapes have been dealing with the fallout of another trend — that of companies moving their manufacturing and processing operations overseas. In most smaller cities, it isn’t uncommon for abandoned industrial spaces, known as brownfields, to become eyesores to the local community.

Redevelopment, or adaptive reuse, presents an opportunity to repurpose these buildings into mixed-use properties that meet the need for unique, intimate urban spaces while breathing life into neglected downtown areas and jump-starting economic development.

What Is Redevelopment?

Wheelhouse PropertiesRedevelopment involves repurposing an abandoned commercial space — whether it’s a factory, a warehouse or a mall — and turning it into something that appeals to today’s consumers. This can include a startup hub or coworking space, a restaurant or microbrewery, a mixed-use residential/commercial space, or any number of other possibilities.

Redevelopment has been ongoing in larger cities since the urban renewal boom of the early 1990s, when, most famously, New York City’s Meatpacking District and Lower East Side became booming hubs for art, nightlife and commerce. It’s only in recent years that this trend has spread to smaller cities throughout the Northeast.

Typically, redevelopment involves keeping the main frame of the building intact while renovating the interior to fit a specific purpose. Often, a major redevelopment project will spur broader urban renewal efforts, bringing a sense of vitality and growth to a once-abandoned area.

What Are the Benefits of Redevelopment?

There are many benefits to repurposing an old warehouse building instead of demolishing it and creating something new:

  • Redevelopment is cost-effective: Keeping the existing frame of a building and renovating the interior is easily more economical than building from scratch. For businesses on a budget, it may be the most cost-effective way to move into a prime downtown location without breaking the bank.
  • Redevelopment is environmentally friendly: Redevelopment repurposes an existing structure, which means less building waste and less debris during the demolition process. Redevelopment is also a great way to incorporate modern, energy-efficient technologies into an older building.
  • Redevelopment engages the community: Repurposing an abandoned building creates new opportunities in neglected urban centers while preserving some of that area’s history and streetscape. Moreover, it creates an opportunity for other businesses and gives these areas new, vital identities which help them thrive.

If you’re an ambitious business or organization, taking the lead on redevelopment efforts has the potential to deliver significant financial rewards while also contributing to the greater good of your community.

Opportunities for Central PA

The Central PA region has a long history of manufacturing and industry. Today, the region’s main cities boast a young, educated population that is passionate about creating greener, healthier and more engaging places to live. This has created several opportunities for redevelopment — and a growing list of success stories.

In Carlisle alone, multiple projects have transformed neglected factories and other industrial spaces into neighborhood hubs, and more are currently in process. includes three projects on former industrial sites:

  • Tyco: The Tyco factory on Hamilton Street closed in 2009 and is currently in redevelopment as the Hanover Commons, a mixed-used space set to include lodging, retail, restaurants and offices.
  • IAC/Masland: The International Automotive Components Group (IAC) had a factory in Carlisle from 1919 to 2008. Today, a group of investors is transforming the abandoned space into a complex featuring a high-end hotel, restaurant and “car condo” parking facility.
  • Carlisle Tire and Wheel (CTW): CWT relocated its operations to Jackson, TN, in 2010, creating a brownfield ripe for redevelopment. Current plans include a two-phase project for turning the space into a series of townhouses and rental units, with a 2,000-square-foot park and central community building.

Together, these three projects account for nearly 50 acres of underutilized urban space. Their completion will significantly transform the region’s downtown area, turning it into a more livable, walkable and functional area, which in turn will lead to further development and growth.

How We Can Help

The Central PA region offers extensive redevelopment potential thanks to a variety of brownfield sites. In 2016, the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation (CAEDC) founded the subsidiary to focus on buying and selling older industrial, commercial and public building sites — in particular, vacant 15,000- to 30,000-square-foot buildings with potential for redevelopment.

To learn more about opportunities in the region, please contact CAEDC directly for assistance.

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