Adaptive reuse is alive in Old Town Peoria

By: 
VICKI HUNT, Mayor Pro Tem, Acacia Councilmember

Vicki Hunt
Mayor Pro Tem
Acacia Councilmember

Peoria’s history as an incorporated city dates almost 70 years. The community’s settlers arrived decades before. The city’s historical core, located near City Hall, features buildings that came from hands of the settlers. These structures are important to the community’s understanding of Peoria’s history. They also are nearly 100 years old.

Private properties nearing a century in age can pose dilemmas for owners.  The love of building history along with the magic of innovative development often meets head-on with the challenge of developing a sustainable structure from what can be a property that has been ignored for decades.

Reusing old buildings for purposes other than the original building or design intent is termed adaptive reuse. The careful technological and structural save of a building’s bones is a favored compromise between historical preservation and demolition. The earliest revered adaptive reuse project is Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. The iconic building that provides shadow to Fisherman’s Wharf was once a woolen factory on one level and chocolate factory on the other. In the 1960s, the property headed for redevelopment as apartments. A local family, fearing the worst, purchased the private property in order to preserve its past. The rest, as they say, is history — Ghirardelli Square is now home to specialty retail and restaurants, and nary is a visitor to the city by the bay who does not take in the landmark on the hill.

Private property adaptive reuse requires some tough choices. Constructing a new building in the place of a very old building is generally more economical. Renovation and reuse is universally more expensive. Along with their history, old buildings often bring asbestos contamination, lead paint, and soil contamination. Foundations from bygone eras often have a hard time standing the test of time. Yet, still there exist those lovers of history whose passion for creativity make adaptive reuse possible.

Worship and Word Church started the adaptive redevelopment of Old Town Peoria. What had been the most egregious eyesore on Peoria’s Grand Avenue frontage, the long vacant furniture outlet-turned pawn shop was cleared of building violations, structurally stabilized and then creatively developed into a 21st century destination.
State Trailer Supply at the Peoria Town Center rose from the long-vacant Walmart. Owner Ray Hult invested generously in a new clock tower and the old building, bringing it up to current building codes, and Peoria has benefitted from the thriving new retail that draws from across the Valley.

Lucidi’s Distilling Co. turned the city’s first fire station into a hallmark for adaptive reuse. Completely gutting the interior, owner Chris Lucidi crafted a one-of-kind tasting room at the Washington Street entrance, with the rear of the building housing the distribution center.

Axiom Church and Driftwood Coffee are the latest to join Peoria’s Old Town reuse revolution. Housed in the community’s oldest lumberyard, on 83rd Avenue, the building and grounds were cleared of debris and noncompliant structural additions.

Despite the struggle and economic challenges, the church and coffee shop now bustle daily with young and old in a community meeting place that has long been overdue.

Adaptive reuse is not for the faint of heart. The unknowns far outweigh what is obvious at the outset of redevelopment. Although not in abundance, folks with an eye for the future and a heart for the past do exist.

The redevelopment of Old Town Peoria will continue. Private investors working with private property owners to conserve and reuse buildings doesn’t come easy. We’ll keep our eye on the future anyway.

The Glendale Star

The Glendale Star
7122 N. 59th Ave.
Glendale, AZ 85301-2436
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Peoria Times

Peoria Times
7122 N. 59th Ave
Glendale, AZ 85301-2436
Ph: (623) 842-6000
Fax: (623) 842-6013

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