Known by different terms - big box abandonment, ghostboxes, greyfields - the reality of large empty building shells is not uncommon for cities. See many big-box reuse stories from around the country.
Ferndale, WA established, by ordinance, a three-pronged approach to retail development, including big-box stores, which includes a scorecard called EAGLE (Energy efficiency, Advanced technologies, Greater good, Low impact, Economic development).
The city's economic development talent and contacts can assist a school program, faced with declining enrollment, to remain in its building by leasing building space.
Describe the expansion/reuse of a school building, church, or commercial building such as a depot or opera house.
Describe city actions that assisted in the expansion/reuse of a big-box building into uses other than large-format retail.
The expansion/reuse of a school or big-box was done with explicit attention to green building practices and/or to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Historic Rehabilitation.
Who's doing it
Barnum - 2 star
Date action report first entered:
Date of last report update:
Year action initially completed:
Completed in 2015, the City Hall moved its location to the abandoned Northview Bank building in downtown. Instead of rebuilding, this city chose to reuse the existing structure because of the high index of abandoned space in the downtown area.
Crookston repurposed an old school building into 11 apartment units. Crookston also has repurposed several buildings downtown into new businesses or places for new businesses to move in. For example, first floor of the Eagle Rexall Building, a historic building, was re-purposed for a new restaurant with assistance from the city. Also, the City assisted in the rehabilitation and repurposing of Historic Fournet Building for commercial space.
Reuse of a retail building - ISD 281 Adult Education entered into a long term lease for 40,000+ square feet of retail at the Crystal Shopping Center for its adult education and ECFE programs. The City approved the conditional use permit earlier this year and the ribbon-cutting was on September 1 in time for classes to start September 6.
A charter school, Beacon Academy, received a conditional use permit to utilize a church (Cornerstone Church, 3420 Nevada) for a K-8 school. Their reuse also includes the addition of 10,000 square feet for additional classroom space. The groundbreaking was September 7 and the school anticipates moving in for the 2017-18 academic year.
The Fergus Falls Parks and Recreation Department operates their administrative and recreation offices within Roosevelt School. LB Homes bought Eisenhower School from the Fergus Falls School District and has converted the building into their administrative office. Lakes Country Service Cooperative bought and remodeled the former Jefferson School as their main administrative offices building.
A number of redevelopment projects renovated existing buildings rather than tearing down the building. The County/City incorporated (renovated) the old junior high gym into the new YMCA, which replaced the old community center and pool. This new/renovated facility serves multiple functions, including continuing to serve the school, and also providing community recreation facilities.
The Northhouse Folk School, a popular non-profit located partially on city-owned land, re-purposed two previous forest service garages into workshop space and classrooms.
WTIP repurposed the old outfitter building for a radio station.
A local non-profit organization, Cook County Higher Education, converted a church into office and classrooms. The organization provides local access to higher education and on-line education services and host classes in a variety of professions to train local residents and enhance economic opportunity. They obtained an energy audit from GMPUC, identified a number of measures with attractive paybacks, then fund-raised on the basis of the audit and remodeled the building and made it much more energy efficient.
With consolidation of schools our school building was closed and now refurbished to include a community gym, 8 apartments, and a Senior Center. Currently the new pitched metal is being completed and the gym ceiling is getting new metal as soon as the roof is completed. These projects will be completed by the fall of 2017.
One of our old buildings on Main Street is in the process of refurbishing it into a beauty salon and massage studio.
The City of Hutchinson repurposed a large-format retail building that was previously a grocery store into an event and senior center. The event center took the previous grocery store and was refinished for its new purposes. The event center hosts events and senior center provides an area for daily activities for the senior population of Hutchinson. This facility was opened in 2002.
Hutchinson also repurposed the previous railroad depot into a rentable small event center, as well as an area that hosts the local farmers market. The original building was preserved, but remodeled inside for functionality. There was also an outdoor pavilion put up on the site which is the location of the farmers market and provides and extra outdoor gathering area. This project was completed in 2012.
Year action initially completed: 2019 and on for remodelling, finding tenants.
The private market place repurposed the former Shopko Site - the City helped facilitate the project through streamlinging entitlements for creative reuse of the building and creative use of the surface parking area contributing to the economic vitality of former big box retail site that went dark. Also see Comprehensive Plan Goal 4.3 (see Comprehensive Plan under 6.1)
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
Building repurposed into viable retail and other space.
A 36,000 square foot retail building was home to Alco (one of the first big box stores) and Running Fleet and Farm since 1979. It was empty for over four years as it was too small for modern big box retail and too big for the locally owned retail business. Brau Brothers, a regional brewery, started looking to relocate their brewery and considered Marshall as one of the candidate cities. The City of Marshall provided a $125,000 forgivable loan and another $125,000 low interest loan as a way to attract the business and make the most efficient use of the vacant property.
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
in 2013 Marshall secured the first ever brewery in Lyon County.
The move for Brau Brothers allowed them to increase production from 5,000 barrels per year to over 25,000.
The business contributes to the tax base of the community.
Due to the rising popularity of craft breweries, Marshall has become a destination point for people that want tours or want to attend one of the many events that the brewery brings to town (e.g., concerts, etc.).
Rush City repurposed an old school building into City Hall offices, Chisago County Sheriff Dept Contract Office, gymnastics facility and locker rooms and mechanical rooms for the pool. A portion of the old school was torn down and a pool built in that location.
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
City Hall old facility was a split entry which would have required an elevator. With the repurposing, the City did not have to build brand new or install an elevator.
The long-vacant former Wells Fargo Building at 161 Concord Exchange North was sold in 2018 and repurposed into a 68 unit apartment complex. The unit mix mainly consists of 1-bedroom units in addition to a few studio and 2-bedroom units. The amenity-rich residential community will include in-unit washer/dryer, a full kitchen appliance package, an interior common room and workout facility. Façade improvements include new brick and glass at the existing entryways, new windows throughout and a rooftop community lounge and patio. A portion of the lower level will be converted to underground parking in addition to repurposing the drive through lanes for additional parking.
South St. Paul’s Economic Development Authority was able to offer the developer a site improvement grant to purchase the property as well as Tax Incremented Financing (TIF) to help finance the site.
Riverland Community College is renovating a large empty shop area into a large Austin Area Childcare Learning Center; something the City has needed for some time. At this time we are at the site drawings, scheduled for opening in 2013.
Former Franklin Middle School has been repurposed by the Crossing Arts Alliance. It is now artists' residences, studio space and retail/ gallery space for the Arts community. The auditorium is used for various community purposes, including being used as a church for much of the week.
A second school that has been sitting vacant has been sold by ISD 181 to a third party who performed updates for Energy Efficiency and ADA compliance and leased the building to a Montessori Charter School. A third school, Edison Elementary School, now hosts the Laestadian Lutheran Church of Brainerd. A fourth school, Washington High School, includes administrative offices as well as "Fun and Friends," a preschool and after school program, and the Kingsley School of Music. Finally, Lincoln Elementary School has been repurposed as an alternative learning center providing a safe and positive learning environment to help students become independent, contributing members to Brainerd's community.
Additionally, a former Shopping Mall of 70s vintage has been repurposed into office space for Ascensus, a financial planning company- completed in 2010.
Our old K-Mart building has been restored and redeveloped for a new Boys and Girls Club Thrift Store. In the large parking lot, we are developing an Aldi's grocery store. It will be completed this fall. One the lower level of McKinley Plaza, we have a new fitness center, Snap Fitness.
Currently, the Hermantown School District is transitioning out of their middle school building, into a new building located next to the high school. This leaves the middle school empty. Much of the building is outdated and unusable, but portions are newer, or in better condition, and good candidates for reuse. So, one wing of the building and the current gym will be reused with a new project to bring the pieces together to form an Arrowhead Regional Health and Wellness Center. Funding will come from county, city, state, as well as the YMCA.
Within the city there are two examples of educational spaces being utilized as both a school use and community space. The Lindbergh Center is a formed partnership between the City and the Hopkins School District. The facility has five basketball courts; eight regulation volleyball courts; 200 meter competitive running track; 300 meter walking/jogging track; and an exercising and conditioning room. The school district utilizes the Lindbergh Center for all district-related activities. Community members are also able to utilize the Lindbergh Center’s equipment, gym space and paths. The Arts Center on 7 is a multi-use arts center located within the Minnetonka High School. The arts center is used for Minnetonka student performances and for community choirs, bands, orchestras, group meetings and performances.
New Hope Elementary School at 8301 47th Avenue North was repurposed as the New Hope Learning Center after the school closed. The building now houses offices for District 281 along with a medical facility for employees.
The Elementary School in Nisswa is currently undergoing an expansion. This expansion of the building has not resulted in increased parking. The school already has the local library in the building as well using the space in a more beneficial way. This allows the school and the public to have access to a library in one location instead of having two smaller libraries in town.
Silver Bay has converted its old school that is no longer in use into an incubator for business development. Currently the space is being used by Wilderness Family Naturals, a local company that specializes in raw and organic food products.
In the 1990’s the Stillwater Area Public Schools (ISD 834) school district sold the old Junior High buildings and the city assisted
in relocating a local business, Cub Foods, from the historic Lumber Exchange Building
to the west wing of the Junior High complex.
In addition, last year Oak Park Heights Elementary School was converted to a school district office site and alternative education uses.
The city was left with a large, vacant retail building when Family Fresh closed their doors back in late 2019. This was the city's largest retail building and sits in a prime location in the downtown. The building was dated and needed significant improvements. In early 2022, the city worked with a charter school on the development process and getting necessary approvals in order to renovate the existing building with much needed upgrades and efficiency improvements. This allowed the charter school to utilize an existing building rather than building new. The charter school was able to open later that year.