Land-use webinar to focus on repurposing blighted buildings into new uses

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of existing structures for new office, commercial or residential uses will be the topic of a Web-based seminar offered by Penn State Extension.

Presenting the 75-minute webinar at noon Aug.19 will be Neal Fogle, Penn State Extension educator; Anthony Ruggeri, of ATR Associates; and Karla Farrell, of Buchart Horn Inc. Titled "Repurposing Land Use into New Venues and Inviting Spaces," the webinar will feature case studies of vacant properties and buildings being repurposed for new uses and as inviting spaces in which people can live, work and shop.

Adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of existing structures is the cornerstone of many community revitalization programs. In many communities, older manufacturing facilities, as well as traditional enclosed malls and big box retailers, have been vacant for years. Unfortunately, these areas often become vandalized, and the large-scale deterioration lowers the value of the surrounding neighborhood.

Communities have addressed these neglected areas by repurposing the properties and buildings in a sustainable way. For example, a former air conditioning manufacturing complex -- a brownfield -- in York was converted into a complex of office and light manufacturing space that has contributed new employment opportunities for the community.

"However, it's the indirect benefits of urban rehabilitation that are just as noteworthy," said Farrell.  "Contributing to a walkable environment and other positive neighborhood changes also will be discussed in the presentation."

Another example to be covered in the webinar is the West Manchester Mall in York County. It was a dying enclosed mall when Ruggeri's company purchased it in 2012. There were two strong anchors, but the remainder of the anchors were struggling and the inside portion of the mall was losing tenants quickly due to shrinking sales.

"The location was outstanding, but the project had to be re-imagined in another form to succeed. The redevelopment of that traditional enclosed mall created a town center shopping experience that provides a community gathering spot for events," Ruggeri said.

"We'll discuss the challenges of strategically repurposing the buildings while creating a dynamic shopping environment for the new retailers and their customers. In addition, we'll highlight the challenges of dealing with stormwater regulations, erosion and sediment control from the perspective of the Karst geology of the area."

Other webinars offered in the monthly land-use series, which all start at noon and are recorded for future viewing, include the following:

--Sept. 16: "Economic Ecology of Healthy Watersheds"

--Oct. 21: "Bees, Chickens, and Goats, Oh My!"

--Nov. 18: "Community Economic Development: What Is It, and What Is Your Role in Its Use in Your Communities?"

The cost of the webinar series is $30 for all five webinars and $60 for those who want to receive certification maintenance credits from the American Planning Association. In addition, Registered Landscape Architects can receive continuing education credits for a fee of $35.

For more information, contact Peter Wulfhorst at 570-296-3400 or by email at ptw3@psu.edu. Online registration for the webinars is available here.

Last Updated August 11, 2015