Saturday, February 21, 2009

Repurposing Buildings ….

This week I had the opportunity to tour a repurposed building here in Greensboro; the Revolution Mill Studios. The developer, James Peeples, has a vision of a historic district with several abandoned cotton mill buildings reclaimed and refurbished into first class business and residential buildings.
At the west end of the building is an events center, which is visualized in the photo essay at right.
To give a comparison of what the building looked like before just look at the adjoining buildings which have not received any conversion.
The first contact I had with this venture was back in the late 1980’s when Gary Dent came into a GTCC class with a large thick notebook with a plan to convert one of the old Cone cotton mills into an entrepreneur center. The entrepreneur center at that time was in an old bank building in downtown Greensboro. My initial visit to that center was in the vault which had been converted into a conference room. At that time I had not been exposed to the term repurposed buildings, but that surely was an example of using something designed for one purpose now being used for another purpose; a vault designed for money now for being used as conference room.
If you visit the Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship you find a building that was once abandoned but, now thriving with all types of businesses. There are now over 60 associates in the building with over 100 graduates (businesses that have moved to other locations). This highly successful incubator is a prime example of people that thought outside the box and started their own businesses.
Next to the Nussbaum Center in an adjacent part of the mill building is the Revolution Mill Studios that are being converted into new homes for businesses, some of which have moved from the Entrepreneur Center next door. On their website you can see how far they have come and the quality of the conversion. You can also find history of the facility at their website. A total of 250,000 of the 600,000 square feet of the mill has been renovated and is occupied by 97 businesses. Projections are that as many as 1,000 to 1,500 will work at Revolution Mill when the rehabilitation is complete.
Repurposing buildings is a good example of paradigm shift, moving from the old to the new. As David Murdock notes in his adage “To do the Impossible, you have to see the Invisible.” In a book on paradigm shifts, I recall the author pointing out ‘An Administrator gets everything he can out of the paradigm within which he is operating (looking inside the box); a Visionary sees something that is not in the paradigm (looking outside the box); but a Leader is one that can move from one paradigm to another paradigm. It seems to me the developer of repurposed buildings would be a Leader in this context. Of course for this to happen, there must be appropriate resources to accomplish the various tasks required to transition from an existing paradigm to the new paradigm.
Hopefully this brief blog on repurposing buildings will give you some more ideas on thinking inside and outside the box.
Post Script: This site takes waste landfield materials and repurposes them to elegant materials for use inside and outside.