Recycling Buildings: Franklin Commons Economic Incubator

Franklin CommonsImproving and reusing our vacant buildings promotes sustainability. Franklin Commons is a great example of recycling an historic industrial building for contemporary uses. The building has been transformed into a mixed-use educational, corporate and recreational facility located at 400 Franklin Avenue in Phoenixville, PA. This facility is an example of how a century-old industrial and manufacturing building has evolved during its lifetime and how it can be renovated for 21st Century activities. While the site undergoes additional renovation, it is open for business and is approximately 90 percent leased.

The Franklin Commons building initially operated as a silk mill, then a carpet mill, and in the mid-1970s it was purchased by a company that made plastic pump parts for sewage treatment plants. That company ceased operations at the site, and the current owners bought the building in 2006. After the site's environmental remediation, it was divided into leasehold spaces and leasing commenced in 2007. Franklin Commons is also part of the Chester County Keystone Innovation Zone, which is a program that supports high-technology life science, biotechnology and information technology companies that are not more than eight years old.

Today, the Franklin Commons includes classroom, office, and recreational space that can be custom-designed and built-to-suit. With a total 225,000 square feet including 200,000 square feet on one floor, the flexible floor space can be configured to meet a tenant's individual demands. Franklin Commons also offers dining, reception and banquet facilities and space for business or community meetings. The building also includes a daycare, a preschool, a Renaissance Academy with 1,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grades, a Lansdale School of Business campus and a Neumann University location, an after-school rock and roll school, a performing arts school, a language center and a number of private businesses.

Franklin CommonsIn addition, the facility has won two significant awards. It has been awarded first place for "Best Mixed Use Project 2009" by the Philadelphia Business Journal and received the 2011 Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission's Regional Excellence Award for the "Regional Land Use Project of the Year".

The adaptive reuse of obsolete buildings such as Franklin Commons illustrates a sustainable practice that benefits the building's owners and the community by contributing to the local and regional economy. A locally-important example of turn-of-the century architecture is preserved and employment opportunities are created. Efficiencies in construction are achieved by rehabilitating the existing structure and by taking advantage of the "embodied energy" that was originally used to create the masonry, timber, steel, and the other structural elements that form the building. Franklin Commons also uses a bank of solar panels that provides electricity for the facility.

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