Thursday, June 29, 2017

'Adaptive Re-Use:" Everything Old is New Again

This fire station in Norristown found a new life as
the Five Saints Distillery.
The name of today's discussion is "adaptive re-use."

As the name suggests, the idea is to take beautiful old buildings that populate the streets of storied communities like Pottstown, and find a new use for them.

Although we all know and love the outsides, sometimes the interiors need a little work, both to undo damage by well-meaning renovators, and to upgrade electric and plumbing systems to meet the needs of today's high-energy use uses.

Susan Richardson from the Montgomery County Planning Commission was in Pottstown Wednesday to talk to regional planners about how to make it easier for those projects to come to fruition.

Of course, they come in all shapes, sizes, personalities and avenues, but there are some basic things municipal officials can do to smooth the road of what is often a bumpy path.

Be flexible, change zoning to allow for such uses and bring them before elected bodies as conditional uses rather than the all-too-often more stringent
Although the developer agreed to preserve the school, the
borough agreed to an additional 28 single-family homes
on the 11-acre property to make the project 
economically viable.
requirements of a zoning variance.

One of the projects highlighted was the transformation of the former Perkiomen Valley Middle School in Trappe into apartments.

Richardson said the officials looked hard to find the right developer and had to make concessions to ensure the project would be economically feasible.

Of course, none of this is new to Pottstown, where several adaptive re-use projects -- the latest of which is the Beech Street Factory project -- have found success.

Consider the First Fidelity building, now home to The Brickhouse; the former Jefferson School, now senior apartments; the former borough hall on King Street, now apartments and even the armory next door, now used as a gymnasium and work-out area.

It takes vision, adaptive thinking and a flexible local government.

Now, here are the Tweets.

1 comment:

  1. I think preserving the old buildings is a great idea, but, Several homes , one on York St. have been "reborn" with new appliances, and paint but nothing was done to the structure. A lot of these old homes need major structural repairs that make them unattractive. So the "flippers" do the minimum to make them look right, and after the homeowner moves in, find sewer and foundation problems.