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Currently showing posts tagged Adaptive Reuse

  • New Life for Old Buildings

    Last week, while teaching at the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications, a student asked If had ever been to the “lunatic asylum.”

    When I sought clarification — it was at the end of the morning lecture, after all — the student noted it was the site of the former South Carolina Lunatic Asylum, the 181-acre stretch of land about a mile from Columbia’s central business district.

    Built in the 1820s and gradually expanded throughout the 19th century, the sprawling site was closed and completely abandoned more than two decades ago. But like other adaptive reuse projects that have become popular in recent years, such as the former American Tobacco Company complex in Durham and the site of the D.C. prison in Lorton, this sprawling complex is going through a rebirth of its own.

    Now known as the BullStreet District, the still developing site houses Segra Park, a minor-league baseball stadium baseball park, as well as a 108,000-square-foot office building and space for various retail stores.

    The centerpiece of the project is the renovation of the Babcock Building, constructed in the mid 1880s and now in the decaying state you see here. The building, which is more than 200,000 square feet, eventually is scheduled to be converted in to more than 200 apartments.

    I wasn’t able to go into the building — no trespassing signs are everywhere and security is much tighter than it was in years past — but took these shots to provide another demonstration in visual storytelling for the students.

    Hope you enjoy them.

    To see more photos from this project, go to my Facebook album here.

  • Lorton Prison: Part 1

    When our family moved to Northern Virginia in 2001, we bought a house in Lorton near the former District of Columbia prison. The sprawling facility, which includes what is now the Workhouse Arts Center, is finally being redeveloped as part of the adaptive reuse trend that is turning early 20th century structures into housing and businesses.

    For more than a decade, however, much of the 2,300-acre prison site remained as is, having been purchased from the federal government by Fairfax County. It wasn’t until 2014 that the Board of Supervisors approved a business plan to redevelop the site as a mixed-use community, and construction on Liberty Crest at Laurel Hill did not begin until early 2016.

    Today, the former prison buildings have been repurposed as apartments and office space, with plans for more retail in the other buildings. Construction has been ongoing now for three years, with a number of single-family homes being added as well.

    For several years, I was a member of the associate artists group at the Workhouse Arts Center, which itself was a separate piece of the prison. The Workhouse, which opened in 2004, was the first piece of the redevelopment that now includes three schools, a cross-country trail and golf course.

    On a cold, rainy morning in 2016, I was given an opportunity to roam much of the main prison site, which had just started to be redeveloped, with my camera. I was struck by how much had been left untouched for almost 15 years. Today, only remnants of what I saw that day remain on a site that has become a model for adaptive reuse.