The Diamond Developers: Blog 5 Brownfield Renovation

THE Diamond Developers: Trolley Barn Brownfield Redevelopment

Trolley Village

Existing Conditions/Site Description/Surrounding Area:

      The Old Trolley Barn site in Olde Towne East is a historically significant site. It is very worthy of being saved and rehabbed but is also in need of site cleaning and many repairs. The current plot consists of the large trolley barn building on the southwest corner of the site, some very dilapidated and less-significant buildings in the middle, and one story storage-like buildings on the east edge. The surrounding area is completely residential with green space directly across the street, a two-way street to the south of the site, a one way and busier street to the west of the site, and the large and well-known Franklin Park and Conservatory just a short two block walk north. There are also vacant, two-story townhomes across the street to the south that could present a unique redevelopment opportunity in the future.

Repurposing the buildings:

  • The westernmost building (The Trolley Barn)
    • The trolley barn is what sits at the farthest south and west corner of the site. This building allows for a very unique redevelopment opportunity as it is a very long and open building with an interesting past. This building is currently boarded up, but with careful restoration, new windows can be installed opening and brightening up the large, two story interior. With minimal work done on the exterior other than some sprucing up, along with complete renovation and cleaning of the inside, our team envisions this building as an art gallery and creative-oriented business with a “400 West Rich Street” vibe to it.
  • The easternmost buildings (One story, storage/warehouse buildings)
    • The easternmost buildings on this site present an opportunity to create an active, flexible, and vibrant working space for local artist at an affordable rate. These one story buildings can be outfitted to accommodate many small work spaces for artists and craftspeople much like similar and recent projects in the city. The flexible spaces within can be adaptable to fit a variety of needs and rented out at affordable monthly rates. Because these will be used as work spaces, the exterior will need cleaned up and rehabbed some but the inside can remain rather gritty, as long as it is conducive to the ability to be creative and work easily inside. With these spaces very nearby to the proposed gallery in the trolley barn, original works can easily be transported and sold just steps away adding to the authenticity and artistic vibe of the area.

New Development:

      Our team saw a fantastic opportunity to add to the already great potential uses on this site. We believe the addition of both residential and retail would greatly benefit the attractiveness of both the site and the neighborhood as a whole. We envision 3 story townhomes or brownstones lining Kelton Avenue to the west from just north of the trolley barn all the way to the alley north of the site. In the first floor of the first unit in this section of the new development (closest to the trolley barn) would be a small retail site that could end up being a cafe or restaurant, something that is certainly needed in this neighborhood. This business would not only bring a wonderful amenity to the neighborhood, but would also bring more jobs and opportunities to the local live-work artists and youth of the area.



      From the intersection of Kelton Avenue at the alley north of the site, the 3 story buildings could continue and wrap around the northern section of the site creating an ‘L’ shape in new development. These should remain the same material for aesthetics purposes but could have a slightly different design to them allowing for different floorplans and densities.

      On Oak Street facing south, our team envisioned more 3 story townhome-style units of the same materials. However, these should be different. These units should be affordable units rented out at lower rates allowing for a mix of incomes in the neighborhood. While the units facing Kelton could be larger and more expensive, we believe that the new buildings facing Oak should be built somewhat smaller allowing for higher density housing and cheaper housing. A good mix of for sale units, rentals, and different incomes levels creates a stronger community.


The New Trolley Village


       In the middle of all the new development and the repurposed buildings to the southwest and east sides of the site would be parking. While this site is situated on a bus line near a stop, we understand that this area is still very car-dependent. There are many bike lanes in the neighborhood and improvements have been made in the city in regards to transit options, but parking is necessary and will be mostly hidden in this site.

      The opportunity of adding some green space should not be passed up and would fit in well in this neighborhood. On the northern end of this site in between the new housing and the repurposed north-eastern workspace building would be a small shaded lawn or pocket park with seating. In the middle of the eastern-positioned buildings, there seems to be a roof collapse. We see this as an opportunity to create another small pocket park with the possibility of hanging lights creating a community hang-out and gathering space.


      Also, on the far southeastern section of this site, we envision a green space with a lot of benches, trees, and a signature sculpture or work of art facing Oak Street that could be created by one of the local artist. This would serve as a fantastic area to relax and socialize in for this small neighborhood and the community as a whole. Finally, in between the affordable-rate units on Oak and the trolley barn building would be a relatively wide pedestrian walkway with trees and benches allowing for easy access from Oak along with the main entrance from Kelton Avenue.


      There are always concerns when new development arrives in a neighborhood. However, our team believes this plan is not only an appropriate plan for this brownfield site, but also a plan that will bring out that sense of community and pride in this Olde Towne neighborhood. While there may be a very slight increase in traffic and noise, we believe the benefits of gaining local cafes and galleries will outweigh any extras that nearby neighbors may be worried about.

      It is important to save sites like this. Historic sites tell stories, they are attached to a culture and help make cities what they are. Sites like these give cities their identities and bring a sense of pride and community to the whole area. Reviving, repurposing, and redeveloping brownfield and historic sites like this one bring economic recovery, an increase in tax base for the cities in which they belong, and clean up areas that may have been dealing with trash, crime, and toxic materials due to abandoned sites like this one. It is vital that this site, and others like it, be saved.

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