functional obsolescence leads to adaptive re-use

BalthaserBuildingDonovan Rypkema is a world leader in historic preservation based redevelopment who has literally been from here to Kathmandu and back preaching the gospel of preservation and re-use of historic architecture. Through a partnership of the Pennsylvania Downtown Center (PDC), Keystone C.O.R.E. Services, and the Our Town Foundation, Don spent the past three days in Hamburg, PA. The focus of this Berks County visit was the historic Balthaser Building, a prominent 1885 Victorian Composite mercantile building in the heart of downtown Hamburg.

We were part of a group of 25 attendees who took part in a DIY Feasibility Study for the adaptive re-use of the Balthaser Building. Within three days, four small working groups formed and assembled a variety of background data on local real estate markets, national and local economic trends, target user groups, market saturation and need, physical constraints and opportunities, political climate, and financial analysis.

In short, four teams created four functional feasibility studies for a building that is the backbone of Hamburg’s historic district and is currently vacant and endangered.

Oh, and they largely did it themselves without private sector consultants, architects, or accountants.

That is the essence of the Rypkema way. Through a combination of lecture, anecdotes, and a few self-deprecating stories, Don provides the necessary tools to create truly useable feasibility analyses for the preservation of historic buildings; an approach that Don will defend as the utmost sustainable form of redevelopment. He certainly makes a compelling case.

Check out some of Don’s presentations at