Downtown Revitalization and Historic Reuse Projects
While older downtowns are no longer the heart of retail commerce in most communities, many have retained their importance as government, financial, and cultural centers, and all have symbolic importance that can affect residential and business location and investment decisions community-wide. FXM’s practice in downtown revitalization recognizes the larger role these places have in the economy of a community and at the same time focuses on developing strategies that can a) retain and expand existing uses; b) create market-driven projects that will add the vitality of new residents and businesses, and c) preserve historic structures and other distinctive attributes of urban centers that will enhance the competitive position of older downtowns for additional investment over the long term. The challenge of finding ways to re-occupy long vacant or underutilized properties in older downtowns can be daunting, but our work with residents, businesses, property owners, and public officials dedicated to the revitalization of their downtowns – and their success in making positive changes -- is among the most rewarding areas of our practice.
Downtown New Bedford Economic Development Plans
City of New Bedford, Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, MassDevelopment, and New Bedford Economic Development Council
Part I: Downtown Revitalization Strategy -- FXM Associates formulated a revitalization strategy for the historic New Bedford central business district with short-term “highest and best use” redevelopment schemes for vacant and under-utilized properties. The study defined retail, office and residential market opportunities; identified barriers to downtown economic growth, and types of retail and office uses with expansion potential; suggested incentives and new approaches for business retention and recruitment, zoning and regulatory changes. The report included an architectural survey, financial pro forma and rehabilitation strategies for eleven historic buildings, based upon market-driven revenue and reuse potential. Notably, within nine months after the FXM report, City officials had selected developers for the vacant properties, and owners of eight targeted buildings had secured financing for redevelopment plans similar to reuse programs and project pro forma contained in the FXM report. (Completed 2000)
Part II: Measuring Success -- The City of New Bedford Planning Department commissioned FXM to review the Downtown Revitalization Strategy initiated in 2000, update market conditions and emerging trends, and evaluate how implementation results might inform future planning, policy and downtown redevelopment. The study found that more than 500,000 square feet of office, retail, and restaurant space in downtown New Bedford – one-third of the total downtown commercial space inventory – had been renovated since the 2000 report, including $80 million in private capital investments. However, vacancies in ground floor retail space remained higher than desirable. FXM recommended a Downtown business development strategy that emphasized, especially for retail uses, recruiting established and successful businesses within the region that could find the downtown an attractive location for expansion. (Completed 2007)
Live, Work, Play and Learn in Downtown New Bedford -- This overview of business activity and market conditions focused on tech-oriented businesses, Creative Economy enterprises, and educational facilities. FXM provided the urban design consultants and MassDevelopment with market-driven redevelopment options for vacant and underutilized property with recommended public realm and parking management improvements. In addition to evaluating market support for commercial and residential uses, FXM assessed demand as well as types of space needed for live-work studios, business incubators, and a new community college campus. This study revealed the effectiveness of marketing efforts by City officials, downtown businesses, property owners and non-profit organizations as evidenced by the 30 new or expanded shops, galleries, restaurants, and entertainment venues that had located in the downtown in the midst of the national recession. (Completed 2009)
Click here for a copy of the New Bedford report.
West End Neighborhood Brownfields Redevelopment Study
City of Chicopee, Massachusetts, Pioneer Valley Regional Planning Commission
The Chicopee Gateway City Downtown Revitalization Plan provided the overall context for FXM Associates to analyze near-term market opportunities to advance redevelopment objectives for multiple brownfield sites in the West End neighborhood. Working with The Cecil Group consultant team, FXM assessed market-driven opportunities for light industrial, commercial retail and office, and residential development potential within the downtown area, evaluated the economic feasibility of rehabilitating selected properties, and identified potential financing strategies to undertake proposed reuse/redevelopment of priority brownfield sites. The FXM proprietary Housing Demand Model was applied to identify market for housing by type (ownership or rental), price, and householder age, and the citywide demand was refined to determine potential demand in the study area. The results of this analysis are helping advance rehabilitation of a major downtown mill property. Collaborating with neighborhood residents, merchants, property owners, and other local stakeholders was an essential component of the FXM market assessment, which also involved participation in public workshops to formulate business recruitment plans. The West End area-wide plan vision and components identified infrastructure and public realm improvements and economic development policy to facilitate site-specific development scenarios and stimulate private investment. (Completion in 2012)
Arctic Village Redevelopment Plan
Town of West Warwick, Rhode Island
FXM Associates led a consultant team effort that assessed market-driven opportunities for potential retail, office and residential development in the Arctic Village downtown area. The firm analyzed market conditions and trends in population, housing, employment, and retail sales to determine potential for achieving development/redevelopment of vacant property. The planning focused on commercial and residential reuse concepts emerging from the FXM market analyses as well as site investigations and development cost estimates prepared by The Cecil Group. FXM converted the dollar value of retail opportunities into square footage by specific store types as identified in the “gap” analysis, also an extremely useful tool for new business recruitment. Toward that end, FXM examined factors influencing location and site guidelines, target market segments and trade areas, as well as business development resources for garden centers, brewpub restaurants, and hardware stores. The team formulated a phased implementation plan, including suggestions to promote economic benefits of the Arctic Village geothermal energy initiative in conjunction with downtown redevelopment. (Completion in 2012)
Norwich Downtown Revitalization Strategy
Norwich Community Development Corporation, Norwich, Connecticut
FXM Associates led the consultant team effort to assess market-driven opportunities for potential commercial and residential development in Downtown Norwich, and provided detailed quantitative analyses to support the reuse of selected historic properties. FXM examined factors in the broader New London County market area influencing local market demand, and identified potential to capture additional retail sales and residential development. The analysis estimated near-term and longer-range potential to achieve increased private real estate investment and business development in the Downtown area, and included confidential interviews with Norwich area real estate professionals, property and business owners. Using building redevelopment data from The Cecil Group, FXM prepared conceptual development pro forma to evaluate prospective revenues, costs, operating incomes, property values, etc. for six targeted properties The area-wide and site-specific implementation approach for the NCDC and City focused on redevelopment priorities and recommendations to accomplish the near-term objective of increasing upper-floor occupancy and ground floor commercial retail business activity. (Completion in 2012)
Norwood Downtown Master Plan
Planning Department, Norwood Massachusetts
As part of a comprehensive planning effort for Downtown Norwood led by The Cecil Group, FXM Associated evaluated market opportunities for additional retail and office development, primarily designed to fill currently vacant and underutilized space. FXM prepared a baseline economic inventory and characterized the downtown economy by number and type of businesses, employment, and sales within the downtown study area compared to the Town of Norwood overall and a 15-minute drive time market region. Using proprietary data sources, FXM assessed retail opportunities by detailed NAICS codes (a “retail gap” analysis) as well as current, historical, and forecast trends in prices and absorption of retail and office space within the Town and region. FXM conducted interviews with representatives of business and property owners and real estate brokers to further differentiate current and potential market niches by type of space, price, customer base, infrastructure and other characteristics of the Downtown study area compared to the broader market area. In consultation with the client and in consideration of public input, as well as relevant experience in other downtowns, FXM prepared a concise series of recommended initiatives capable of being implemented by the client to recruit additional retail and office tenants to Downtown. (Completed 2010)
Strathmore Paper Mill Redevelopment Study
Village of Turners Falls, in the Town of Montague, Massachusetts
FXM Associates prepared a market and economic assessment for reuses of 245,000 square feet of under-utilized space in the former Strathmore Mill. Located on an industrial island in the Connecticut River, the 11 multi-story brick buildings are within the downtown historic district via a footbridge across the hydroelectric power canal. This study informed town officials about issues affecting property acquisition and proposed reuse, and the feasibility of undertaking a public-private redevelopment effort. The market analysis included more than 40 interviews with mill owners/developers, real estate brokers, recent tenants, business owners and associations, public officials; review of reports, studies, and data pertaining to the Montague-Greenfield, Franklin County and Northern Tier economies, and information for 17 mill conversion projects. The market investigations included examination of the micro-manufacturing and creative arts economies, and "Hidden Tech" (home-based businesses, self-employed workers) sectors. From this research, FXM created a market-driven redevelopment program that defined potential uses, space needs, and price points, and from which supportable debt for rehabilitation cost was derived. FXM assisted Feingold Alexander + Associates (architects) Tighe & Bond (engineers), and Ajax Partners International (development adviser) to formulate a phased redevelopment plan, determine infrastructure requirements, consider current and near-term demand, supply and absorption rates in local and regional markets, and evaluate prospects for private investment in future Strathmore Mill redevelopment.
Review of Medfield State Hospital Redevelopment Proposals
Town of Medfield, Massachusetts
FXM Associates undertook a detailed review of state redevelopment plans for an 80-acre former mental hospital in order to examine the viability of reuse and environmental remediation assumptions, economic feasibility, and fiscal impacts on the town. Key elements of this research and analysis focused on economic issues related to the National Historic Landmark status of the Medfield State Hospital campus and buildings, and physical constraints influencing marketability of a proposed 300+ unit retirement community at the site. FXM and its subconsultant Earth Tech, Inc. analyzed financial data and pro forma prepared by the Department of Capital Asset Management for two redevelopment scenarios, and found significant additional costs that would have to be borne by potential developers. The fiscal impact of the reuse plans and alternative development scenarios formulated by FXM were found to be positive. FXMs report provided the town a blueprint for assessing future development options, including value and net fiscal impacts per unit for single family, condominium, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities.
Jones Block Marketing Plan, Adams
MassDevelopment contracted with FXM Associates to prepare a marketing strategy for the Jones Block, a historic commercial building in downtown Adams, Massachusetts. FXM was to devise a strategy to capture certain niche markets, especially environmental enterprises and technology businesses. FXM identified the primary market for the Jones Block as individuals and small companies that were operating out of home offices and secondary space in Berkshire County. FXM also recommended changing the project name from "Center for Environmental Excellence" to "Center for Creative Excellence" to better appeal to the technological and artistic sectors that appeared to be the primary markets for this space. FXM estimated the type and number of jobs that the renovated building was likely to support and amount of spending that building tenants would be expected to do in support of existing businesses in Adams.
Comprehensive Market Analysis and Downtown Strategic Plan
Downtown Associates of North Attleboro, Massachusetts
As part of a consultant team that included Planners Collaborative, Inc., planners and urban designers, and Booth Associates, retail specialists, FXM Associates assessed the potential to expand commercial activities in downtown North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Existing establishments enjoyed a relatively affluent and growing trade area, but continued to lose market share to a major regional shopping center nearby. Specialty retailing niches, cultural events, showcase presentations linked to the area’s historical and current links to jewelry manufacture, urban design and landscaping improvements, and a weekend farmers’ market were among the initiatives recommended to attract more activity and shoppers to this older downtown.
Plymouth County Hospital Reuse Study,
Phases I & II
Town of Hanson, Massachusetts
FXM Associates performed analyses of market and financial conditions for two reuse options selected by the Town of Hanson for the former Plymouth County Hospital site, including a commercial sports facility and senior housing. The primary focus of this evaluation was to assess whether the market and site could support tax-generating reuse options for a portion of the 45-acre site, with the vast majority of the site kept for passive recreational uses. Using both the market data and the cost figures relating to various reuse options for the facility, FXM decided to recommend reusing the hospital and part of the site for senior housing, but not to recommend any sports facility for the rest of the Plymouth County Hospital site. FXM work included a recommended unit mix and estimates of income and sales figures for the senior housing. Fiscal impacts on the town attributable to the proposed reuse were also assessed.
Onset Bay Village Market Analysis and Strategic Plan
Onset Bay Association
In the early 1900s, Onset Bay Village was the premier tourist destination in southeastern Massachusetts. This position eroded with the development of Cape Cod and the Islands and by the early ‘90s commercial vacancies, poorly maintained frontages, and deteriorating structures were prominent in the village. But a spectacular natural harbor, large sandy beach, views of the Bay, ample public open spaces, diverse lodging opportunities, frequent summer concerts, and an active recreational waterfront continue to distinguish the Village area. FXM Associates, as part of a consultant team that included Planners Collaborative and Booth Associates, investigated opportunities for enriching and enhancing commercial sales and employment, and for developing additional residential and commercial uses in the village. Diverse ethnic and income groups within Onset warranted special community outreach efforts in the planning process, and sensitivity to the effects of potential new development on residential property values. The Onset Bay Association used FXMs market analysis to inform local business and property owners and to assist their redevelopment efforts. Today, Onset Village is virtually 100 percent occupied and is again a source of pride to the neighborhood and overall community.
Main Street Revitalization Strategy, Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, Phase I
Cubellis & Associates, Town of Bourne
FXM Associates was retained by a private developer, with support from the Town of Bourne and the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce, to independently assess the financial implications of selected property acquisitions and rehabilitation under current and reasonably foreseeable market conditions, and to make suggestions for strategic initiatives to advance the broader community objectives for revitalization of Main Street, Buzzards Bay. FXM conducted research on local and regional market trends, evaluated the product mix and lease rates at competitive shopping centers, investigated business centers in comparable communities, and identified issues affecting the revitalization of this historical community center. FXM’s assessment, which included detailed financial pro forma for the rehabilitation of selected properties, concluded that residential apartment units on upper floors would be needed to subsidize the costs of ground floor commercial revitalization, in order to achieve competitive space at rents appropriate to the market. The target retail market would likely be small specialty stores that had established successful operations in other local communities, or new entrepreneurs with ties to the community. As a consequence of FXM’s analyses, two key properties at the gateway to Main Street have been successfully rehabilitated with upper floor residential uses and ground floor specialty retail.
The Corson Block
Waterfront Historic Area League (WHALE), New Bedford, Massachusetts
In 1977, the top two floors of the Corson Building were destroyed by fire. The building, along with the Hathaway House attached in the back, is in the center of the Historic District of downtown New Bedford and the Whaling National Historical Park. WHALE assumed ownership of, and responsibility for, the building and plans to restore it to its original condition. FXM provided different development options incorporating costs and income, each requiring varying levels of fundraising, for both non-profit and commercial users. Different ownership structures were suggested, including partnership with the National Park Service (NPS). FXM recommended keeping the upper floors non-profit in conjunction with the NPS, either as owners or on a long-term lease. This proved to be the winning strategy, and the Corson Block is now fully occupied with a combination of NPS and provate commercial uses.
Cordage Park, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Textron Financial Services
FXM Associates analyzed market and economic conditions and reviewed several different options for the adaptive reuse of an abandoned rope factory located on the Plymouth coastline. Preliminary market studies were done to assess the supply and demand for elderly housing, hotel, office, marina, and retail development. Based on these studies, FXM developed pro forma and cash flow projections to determine feasibility based on cost of, and demand for, various mixed-use development options. In total approximately 1,000,000 square feet were analyzed along with the overall fiscal impact on the town. The property has been successfully re-used for mixed residential and commercial uses, including a marina.
Greenfield Downtown Master Plan, Greenfield, MA
Planning Department, Town of Greenfield
FXM Associates performed a market assessment of current and proposed uses that were aimed at revitalizing the commercial district of downtown Greenfield. Specifically the study addressed the issues of lack of reinvestment in downtown property, the high level of vacant space, particularly the second and third floor levels of 100-year-old buildings, deteriorated buildings, and the high degree of sales and tenancy leakage. A formal market study was conducted and a specific level of "leakage" determined for retail and recreational uses. Individual buildings were selected that were currently vacant or seriously underutilized to provide concrete suggestions for relocation of some of the new and expanded uses in all of the commercial and residential categories. Costs for renovation, rents for new leasing and sources of funds were calculated to determine the feasibility of renovating and reusing these ten targeted buildings. FXM provided an overall assessment of available square footage and proposals for its use in the context of the market in order to bring renewed energy and life to the downtown. Over time, many of FXM’s recommendations have been implemented.