Move over, Junior League boosters. The latest trends in saving historic buildings are all about reuse and sustainability. By retrofitting timeworn structures to house community ventures such as sustainable food farms and schools, cities are not only saving the time and money required to build new structures, they're also cutting back on waste. Indeed, to deconstruct one midsize Main Street building means eight boxcars of refuse destined for the landfill. As 2,500 preservation enthusiasts gear up for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's conference in Buffalo, here are four projects set to safeguard history.
1// Neighborhood Service Organization's Bell Building
In June, a local social-service group claimed this, one of the most recognized buildings in the city's blighted landscape, as a new office for its staff—and as an apartment complex for 155 formerly homeless residents. With an estimated cost of $48 million, plans are now under way to bring a health-care clinic to the former Western Electric building.
2// Buffalo Central Terminal
Once the second-largest railroad hub in the U.S., the terminal survived the Great Depression only to eventually fall victim to car mania in 1979. Local preservationist Scott Field reclaimed the 18-acre complex for $1 in 1997 and formed a community group that is currently working to transform the art deco building into a high-speed rail center and community garden. The ongoing project is estimated to cost more than $100 million.
3// Woodlawn Plantation Building
Originally owned by George Washington, the plantation saw nearly 150 years of experimental farming before becoming the trust's first rehabilitation project in 1952. Since 2010, it has been the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, supplying goods to area restaurants. "People tout that they are local, but it can mean sourcing from various states," says Kyle Bailey, chef of Washington, D.C.'s Birch & Barley. "But our local is 15 miles away."
4// Miami Marine Stadium Building
After operating as a venue space for 28 years, 1992's Hurricane Andrew turned this stadium on Biscayne Bay into a battered concrete husk ripe for graffiti. The community organization Friends of Miami Marine Stadium is working to raise $30 million in funds to restore the concrete and install new seats, setting the stage for "spectacles we haven't even imagined yet," says Donald Worth, cofounder of the group.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.