Ron Nyren of the Urban Land Institute recently recognized ten projects completed in the past five years that brought back “valuable community resources from decline and neglect.” Nyren notes the importance of these places because they, “serve as a link to the past, a site for shared memory, and an anchor in the often-changing urban landscape.” We’d call them historic sites, but no matter, we’re happy to see more examples of great places reborn, especially when they seem like white elephants, such as:
- a 1930s Ford assembly plant in San Francisco, now a performance, conference, and dining facility, with a patio facing the wharf. The rest of the building was repurposed for offices.
- a twelve-story hotel from the 1920s in Mississippi that’s reopened as the Hilton Garden Inn Jackson Downtown in early 2010, with 186 rooms and 64 luxury apartments.
- a nineteenth-century city jail in Massachusetts turned into 23 condominiums, a restaurant, and landscaped open space–and a jail cell preserved as a museum.
- a twelve-story department store in Chicago converted to a mixed-use project with retail, offices, and restaurants.
Don’t let anyone tell you a saving an historic site is impossible and it can’t be reused. When you’ve seen these projects, you’ll know it just requires creative thinking and a good plan (and yes, money–but rarely is anything free).