Vacant Buildings : S-M-L

The following research is looking at small to medium scale post-industrial buildings that are embedded in the neighborhood fabric of Trenton.  These sites are ripe with potential – they are prime locations to ultimately assume essential neighborhood functions.

This map identifies four neighborhood-embedded sites, as well as the successfully revitalized Terracycle site

TerraCycle is a new business in North Trenton on New York Avenue.  The owner, Tom Szaky, took an abandoned site (previously occupied by the Brauninger News company) and began business in 2001 as a small start-up company manufacturing fertilizer from worm poop.  TerraCycle has engaged the surrounding community by providing jobs, encouraging recycling, and hosting graffiti wall events for its neighbors.

Once just another abandoned industrial building...

Once an abandoned building...

...becomes a thriving business!

Terracycle represents a successful remediation of an abandoned building.  What kinds of strategies can be implemented with similar structures to begin re-inhabitation?  Another site we are researching is the Horsman Doll Factory, on Grand Street in Chambersburg.  Horsman Dolls was once the largest doll manufacturer in the United States, and this factory closed in the 1960’s.  The vacant factory is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, and its small scale (approx. 1.5 acres) makes remediation relatively manageable. We have explored inexpensive, initial moves to make on the site as a way to plant a seed for potential change in the neighborhood.  One strategy is to simply mark the site, increasing awareness of the building as an empty vessel awaiting a purpose…show that someone is home, and someone cares!

Simply marking the building can begin to show that even small investments make a difference

This initial marking could then begin to say more…perhaps indicate the building as a high priority for city redevelopment efforts, or advertise a new business in the area.  Rather than thinking of the building wholesale, perhaps occupation can happen incrementally as the building is rehabilitated.

Someone is home!

Another site is the iconic Roebling complex, which is 45 acres.  Significantly larger than the smaller sites, it has similar issues and can be approached conceptually in a similar way in terms of remediation.  The edges of Roebling create a barrier to Chambersburg – all roads lead to, and end at Roebling.  Recognizing the physicality of the site as overwhelmingly large, we are proposing to break down its large mass into parts.  Simply re-orienting the existing fences to allow people to walk around the Roebling site can begin to change perceptions.

This diagram explores various points of entry for the Roebling complex

Create paths to and thru the site, make it accessible


Trenton Confetti!

Throughout Trenton there are small, undeveloped, abandoned sites that we envision as locations that could spur change at the neighborhood scale.  Although small by themselves, they can be influential as a collective.  The strategy here is to use a kit of parts that are inexpensive and require minimal maintenance.  It would be a systematic way to respond to a range of conditions on these scattered sites.

Small sites can have a big impact if they are treated as a network within Trenton

The kit of parts could be applied incrementally to reimagine and revitalize one of these small sites:

The site becomes a neighborhood hub!

Take me to the River! (and the canal+creek)

The waterways of Trenton were integral to its success as an industrial giant.  Ships came up the navigable waters of the Delaware River delivering raw materials and taking away finished goods.  Goods traveled on further, following the Delaware + Raritan (D+R) Canal.  The Assunpink Creek took the brunt of the industrial burden as the tributary became a dumping ground for all sorts of industrial waste and byproducts.

Today the banks of the Delaware can not be reached as the shoreline is severed from the city  by Route 29.  The D+R canal is simultaneously used as a dumping ground for trash and as a source of drinking water.  The Assunpink  has been overtaken by vegetation and is hidden from view.

Now for the good news!  These water resources have not been lost!  They can be re-activated through a variety of practical means.  The following images explore just how this can happen.

Route 29 is a barrier to access to the Delaware River

break barriers and make a landing on the river

Crescent Powerhouse

the site is underutilized and forgotten

The re-use of the Powerhouse as a landmark on the Assunpink Creek Park will tap into the strong cultural identity of Trenton

Yes Trespassing

After a few false starts [thanks, snow] we successfully ventured to Trenton last weekend, and we were not disappointed.  Sunday was a whirlwind tour of all of the cities amazing neighborhoods [maybe you saw us? me: two conversion vans full of students, you: bemused yet tolerant local] followed by Monday meetings with Isles and representatives from the city, as well as an unexpected visit with Mayor Palmer.  We presented a condensed version of our initial research and ideas and in turn learned about the impressive work that Isles and the city are doing.

We were all blown away by the level of investment and energy present in everybody we met – from our lovely bartender John at Mill Hill Saloon to our chance encounters with local architects and developers.  Every corner we turned brought us face to face with vibrant members of the Trenton community.

meeting over the map with Allen from Isles

the crew with Mayor Palmer

who loves Trenton?



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