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Adapt and Reuse: Transforming the Old to the New

Refurbishment, rehabilitation, retrofitting, adaptive reuse: Call it what you will, but the transformation of an existing building from one state to another can be an effective way to build community. At its most basic level, adaptive reuse takes an existing structure and modifies it to be used as something else. An auto repair shop renovated to serve as a diner. An empty warehouse turned into office spaces. Throughout the country we have hundreds – thousands – of examples of existing structures that are under-used, or not used at all, that with the right investor and market conditions could be repurposed into something new, alleviating the need for new construction. Adaptive reuse has its roots in historic preservation – incorporating the structure’s historical elements in a reuse project – and that’s an important contribution, but increasingly adaptive reuse applies in other contexts that also offer other benefits. I like how the Archinode Studio site at MIT puts it: “A more accurate description of [adaptive reuse] is to prolong the period from cradle-to-grave of a building by retaining all or most of the structural system and as much as possible of other elements, such as cladding, glass, and interior partitions. Not only buildings of historic significance can be infused with new life.” This broader definition allows us to look at the other benefits of adaptive reuse, beyond just honoring the past through retaining architectural elements. First, it implies the worth of a structure for its own sake, recognizing the intrinsic value an existing structure occupies in the existing fabric of a community. Second, it is a “green” building technique, because “the greenest building is one that is already built”. From a service perspective, often buildings subject to adaptive reuse are in established areas of the community, meaning that utilities – roads, water, sewer – will need to be upgraded, as opposed to built from scratch. And in some cases, adaptive reuse can spur the creation of affordable housing. So what do some examples of this more broad definition look like? I pulled a few before and after shots of some adaptive reuse projects from around the west to demonstrate, including several recent projects from here in Bozeman. Grab the handle bar on each picture and drag left and right to reveal before / after images.

Furniture Warehouse >>> Office Spaces

Bozeman, MT The Harringtons warehouse furnished much of Bozeman’s office furniture needs for years. My desk (in a building itself refurbished several years ago from agricultural seed storage to office units) is from Harringtons. But the building is in a transitional area on the east end of town where demand for office space is growing, in large part because of its proximity to downtown, Bozeman’s trail network, and the new library. The refurbished building includes the main structural components of the original building – gorgeous timber framing – and is now compartmentalized into several office spaces. The new roof is made of structural insulated panels to increase energy efficiency. Additionally, the street front was redeveloped to include a new sidewalk, trees and landscaping to enhance the pedestrian environment. [beforeafter]beforeMovie afterMovie [/beforeafter]

Auto Garage >>> Ice Cream Shop

Driggs, ID “The Emporium” in Victor, Idaho may be the ice cream hub of Teton Valley, but if you desire a location with fewer pictures of former presidents then travel eight miles north to Driggs and visit “The Creamery”. Originally built as an auto repair shop, the building was renovated to its current use. The front entryway was relocated to the side and a new coat of paint dons the exterior, but the building retains much of the same form as originally conceived. [beforeafter]beforeCreamery afterCreamery [/beforeafter]

Travel Lodge >>> Boutique Travel Lodge

Bozeman, MT The first time I visited Bozeman in 2001 I stayed at the Imperial Inn travel lodge. I did not write home about it. But in 2016, after today’s renovations are complete, first time visitors may. Plans call for the building to retain is former use as guest lodging, but architects describe its new feel as a “boutique locally engaged hotel serving as the cultural gateway”. Oh, architects. The structural hull will be retained, but new finishes will be added to give it that “boutique-y” feel. The site is currently under construction. [beforeafter]beforeImperial afterImperial [/beforeafter]

Theater >>> Performance Space

Rifle, CO Rifle, Colorado’s Ute Theater has gone through several rounds of rehabilitation. Most recently, the New Ute Theater Society spearheaded the building’s most amazing transformation yet. Working with donations from the community and state agencies, the Society has been able to shore the building’s structural supports and completely transform the facade. The New Ute plans to host film screenings, live music and performance arts. Located in the core of downtown Rifle, the Ute stands to benefit from the efforts of City leadership to energize the area. [beforeafter]beforeUte2 afterUte[/beforeafter]

Vacant Garage >>> Cider Brewery

Bozeman, MT When I first noticed activity at this vacant garage last year my hunch was that it would be torn down. Oh how delectably wrong I was. The garage’s owners occupy a single family home just out of the shot of these images, and their vision was to adapt the space into a cider brewery, which they had been learning about for the past several years. The original garage space was kept, then a second floor for offices was added and the front was extended directly onto the sidewalk, forming a nice sense of enclosure for pedestrian passers-by. A patio space was incorporated on the side with an outdoor fireplace, and windows were added to increase transparency. To top it off, the new ground-floor addition has a green roof – the adorning wildflowers are amazing in spring. [beforeafter]beforeCider afterCider[/beforeafter]

Empty Warehouse >>> Cannery District

Bozeman, MT Like the transition of Harringtons, the Cannery District in Bozeman is in a transitional area. There is a degree of activity already happening in the district with a brewery and recycled bike store already located here. The master plan calls for an overhaul of the tall warehouse building into several upscale office spaces. Construction is ongoing. [beforeafter]beforeCan afterCan[/beforeafter]

Empty Warehouse >>> Coffee Shop, Retail Spaces

Bozeman, MT Near the Cannery District, the “Steel, Etc” building was refurbished into a series of retail spaces. It is connected to a nearby gymnasium and garden store via walkways and shared parking lot. [beforeafter]beforeCoffee afterCoffee[/beforeafter]

Elementary School >>> Non-Profit Offices, Events Center

Carbondale, CO The 3rd Street Center is a beloved institution in Carbondale. Once an elementary school, the space was transformed into a community hub of non-profit offices, shared work spaces and a performing arts space. [beforeafter]before3rd after3rd[/beforeafter]

Motor Lodge >>> Hotel + Bar

Boise, ID Growing up in Boise, the most memorable thing about the “Boise TraveLodge” was the dancing goat on the sign, because nothing says comfort and convenience like, you know, a dancing goat. Boiseans now have something else to remember the Lodge by: The upscale “Modern Bar” included in its renovation several years ago. The renovation also included modernizing new fixtures and finishes, but the hotel retained its same structure. [beforeafter]beforeModern afterModern[/beforeafter]

Destroyed Building >>> ???

Grand Junction, CO This site is less about action at this point, and more about potential. The building, known as White Hall, was constructed in 1923 as a church but was burnt down by an unknown cause in 2011.  Last year, we worked with the Grand Junction Economic Partnership to evaluate several opportunity sites in the downtown area, including White Hall. Possibilities for this site include a mix of residential and commercial spaces. [beforeafter]beforeWhite afterWhite[/beforeafter]   If you’re like me, you’ll find there’s something extremely satisfying about seeing these old buildings rejuvenated. It’s a sign that our towns are healthy, and worthy of new investment. Plus, there’s something a bit sad about leaving old buildings behind, then going somewhere new and putting all our time and energy into creating shiny new buildings far from our town center. In 10 or 20 years, those buildings begin to age and we repeat the process all over again. The buildings in these examples are a reversal of that process. They represent the idea that, with a bit of creativity and elbow grease, even the most downtrodden of our old town buildings can find new life. In a world where things fall apart, it’s nice to know we can put them back together again.

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