When planners and architects talk about adaptive reuse, they are usually talking about such things as converting old warehouses into loft housing, or turning abandoned mills into art spaces or technology incubators. Adaptive reuse can be a wonderful strategy to coax new life from old buildings.
But on a recent swing through several town centers in the region, I saw a different kind of adaptive reuse—former homes now doing duty as offices or retail outlets, as above and below. In my observation, if there was any concentration of commercial activity in a town center at all—and especially if any of it was purpose-built—then there were almost always significant stretches of conversions, like the ones shown in these pictures, emanating outward from the inner center.
Bolton will soon be looking into zoning amendments for a possible village center overlay district, together with design guidelines, that could allow some kinds of business uses and/or dense development in our predominantly residential historic town center. Conversions of residential property for allowed commercial uses in an overlay district would likely require special permitting and reviews, and may or may not be allowed. Nonetheless, it would seem that opening the doors to broader business use in the town center has the potential to set forces in motion with long-term consequences that we may not yet fully understand.