Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Draper building

The Draper building is a large, decrepit factory in the middle of Hopedale. Closed since the 1980's, it's been partially demolished, but still physically dominates the town. It is currently owned by a more-or-less anonymous developer. The town has put together a committee to explore possibilities for re-using the site.

I think this is a really interesting project with amazing potential. It is getting underway just as sustainability and green construction are going mainstream. This Old House is building a green house in Austin. Corporations are installing green roofs on new buildings. Also, developers and planners are starting to come up with promising ideas for fostering healthier communities through design.

The town has a history of emphasizing education, community well-being, and the environment only slightly derailed by a century of factory life. The space is big enough to have residences, office space, community services, and anything else that might make sense. It's centrally located in the most densely populated area in town. The surviving structures are the red brick kind that look great when renovated.

The reuse of the Draper building will be a major theme of this site, but I won't pretend that I can come up with the best plan. I want to start by researching the history and the current stake holders. What were the ideals of the original utopian community? How did the Draper corporation behave as a corporate citizen? Who lives here now? Who owns the building now? What other developments have they been involved in? What has the reuse committee done so far?

I also hope to profile similar projects elsewhere and reflect on what Hopedale might learn from them. I don't think this situation is uncommon in New England.

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