Around 900 vacant warehouses are scattered throughout the city of Detroit. Some, like the 3.5 million square foot Packard Plant, are absolutely massive structures but two-thirds of the shuttered buildings are small former machine shops under 10,000 square feet. Some, like the Packard Plant and a variety of structures in the Warehouse District, are being redeveloped and repurposed in line with Detroit’s growth but hundreds more lie in wait for new life. Today at Think313 we’re looking at 10 ideas for repurposing vacant warehouses other than the obvious office and residential developments.
Indoor sports fields require large amounts of space and Detroit warehouses have it. The House of Sports in Ardsley, New York is a 120,000 square foot, three-story recreation facility containing four regulation basketball courts on the second floor and a full sized soccer field on the top floor. Lacrosse, football, field hockey, and more could all feature in the 432,000 square foot for-sale warehouse at 1448 Wabash Street in Detroit.
Paintball fields need a minimum of 20,000 square feet and what’s better than being able to play rain, shine, or snow?
Like paintball, an indoor miniature golf course impervious to the harsh Michigan winters could fill a warehouse. Average course sizes are 20,000 square feet and could combine with batting cages and go-kart tracks to create the classic miniature golf atmosphere.
Dirt Bike Course
Artificial dirt bike tracks for Supercross are assembled and disassembled in a matter of days in arenas and stadiums across the country so why not have a permanent track for dirt bike riders in the area? Five hundred truckloads of dirt and 70,000 square feet of racing surface could transform an empty warehouse like the 261,000 square foot building at 6600 Mount Elliott St into a dirt bike heaven.
A former peanut factory in the industrial city of Calais, France was transformed into a youth center and skate park spanning 30,000 square feet. With the addition of Tony Hawk’s pocket skate park downtown, skating fervor in the city is at an all time high and an indoor skate park could keep that flame going through the cold winters.
Blue Ridge Aquaculture raises four million pounds of tilapia every year in its 100,000 square foot facility in Virginia. The continuously filtered fecal matter and food particles are recycled as aquaponic fertilizer, which brings us to…
Newark, New Jersey-based Aerofarms converted a 69,000 square foot warehouse into an indoor farm producing 2 million pounds of baby greens per year while using 95% less water than growing crops in an outdoor field. Being that Detroit is a cold weather market, many crops in Detroit stores are shipped from California or Florida and wilt on the journey. A year-round, temperature controlled warehouse farm could help remedy that.
Indoor Swimming/Boating Lake
The first indoor water park opened in 1985 in Edmonton, Alberta and spanned over 200,000 square feet. Water parks are ubiquitous these days but imagine building a giant indoor pool on the ground floor of a huge warehouse. The annual Toronto Boat Show boasts the world’s largest indoor lake capable of hosting kayaking, canoeing, and even wakeboarding and waterskiing.
Seasonal Event Space
An Oktoberfest beer hall, a Christmas Market, a Halloween haunted house, a food truck expo. A vacant warehouse could become a revolving door for huge events that may be a bit too raucous or dirty for traditional convention centers. Philadelphia hosts an Oktoberfest celebration in the 23rd Street Armory while the Cutting Edge Haunted House in Fort Worth, Texas covers 235,000 square feet of an old meat-packing plant.
With some modifications, a warehouse could become a great space for an indoor botanical garden and greenhouse. While Belle Isle’s Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is one of the city’s gems, a larger greenhouse with an admission fee and cafes and restaurants would have so much more potential in terms of plant life and revenue.
By Jared Hoffman
Research Associate, JMJ Phillip Group