Find New Life in Refurbished and Repurposed Classic Manufacturing Buildings

“New ideas often need old buildings.”
                                                – Jane Jacobs

Picture this: Your business is outgrowing its location, and you need to build a new facility—soon.  You’ve just found the perfect property, but…there’s an old, abandoned manufacturing building on site.

You’re concerned about budget and schedule, assuming the building would need to be torn down and removed before any new construction could start, putting your expansion on hold.

But what if that building wouldn’t need to be torn down?  What if you could keep the ribbon cutting date, and still get the facility you need?

Enter a viable option for building your facility: Refurbishing and repurposing a classic manufacturing building.


What an owner might see as an unusable building, Hance Construction’s design-build team sees as something that can be efficiently revived, enhanced, and improved to meet the owner’s requirements. This team makes it a mission to help owners recognize and capitalize on such an opportunity.

“If you have a good Design Builder who can figure out how to use a building,” said Art Hance, owner of Hance Construction, Inc., “you may be able to find a piece of property with an existing structure at an attractive price, and then convert it to get the facility that you need.”

Like an uncut diamond, an old building can bring high value to your project with its unique set of opportunities and planned improvements. It can take less time to refurbish and expand an existing building, because often there is an established infrastructure, such as a road into the site, utilities in place, and an existing building shell.

Sometimes existing infrastructure needs to be upgraded, but that’s not a bad thing. Art Hance described a project where an owner decided to convert an old facility into an office building and expand his warehousing capacity with a new addition. “We needed to comply with revised storm water requirements and septic upgrades, so we had to upgrade these systems,” he said. But because the infrastructure was already there, it allowed them to expedite the project.

“Rather than take four months to build the entire building shell and then start fitting out the interior,” he explained, “we went in the first week. While we were starting the construction of the addition and the foundations, we were already working on fitting out the interior for the existing building.”

Some repurposed buildings hold historic architectural interest, as well. “I think there are unique architectural effects that can happen with some of these projects, incorporating an old building with a new building,” said Hance. For example, some of the legacy manufacturing buildings have attractive brick construction, wide wood plank floors, and curved window and door openings. This kind of beautiful space often lends itself to the office operations, while the new addition is built to accommodate the company’s manufacturing or warehousing operation.


Refurbishing an existing building is environmentally friendly. “It’s much more sustainable,” said Hance, adding he would much rather take an old structure and refurbish it than tear it down. It eliminates the need for large-scale demolition and the heavy machinery associated with it, minimizing air and noise pollution and the resulting landfill. ”It’s just a better option for the environment, and it could be very cost effective.”

However, older sites may have existing environmental issues, and this is where having an expert design-build team is critical for owners to help determine the viability of a project site. “We have a team that can address those environmental issues and step owners through the process,” said Hance. “First and foremost, we would look at whether or not there are any legacy environmental issues.”

Sometimes, the environmental issues are worth resolving. In the case of the award-winning Station Road Complex project in Sparta, a legacy manufacturing site was remediated to allow re-skinning the existing buildings and rehabilitating the site of a historic train station. The complex is now a highly sustainable, environmentally friendly community hub benefitting the entire Sparta area. The Station Road project is also a good example of how metal roofs and walls offer excellence in environmental performance and aesthetic appeal.


Sometimes older buildings are so structurally challenging that refurbishing it is not worth the investment. “I just had a situation where an owner called me and said he wanted to tear down an existing and build a new building,” said Hance, who offered to look at the owner’s building first. He believes there is always a possibility of saving what is there and adding on to it. “I went out and looked at it, and said, ‘Let’s tear this thing down!’ The building was not suitable for saving. But that’s not always the case; sometimes we look at things a different way, and we can figure out how to reuse that building and incorporate it into a new project.”

Recently an owner approached Hance Construction with an existing 17,000 sf Butler building from the early 1970s. “You couldn’t see this building because it was so overgrown,” said Hance. “You had to literally hack your way through the brush to get to this building; it had been abandoned for 20 years. The owner was going to tear it down. We looked at it and determined we could re-use the structure. We installed all new glass, a new roof at the owner’s request, and the building today—Mile Square—is gorgeous.”

Older manufacturing buildings can be found on land throughout Central and Northern New Jersey. If you are an owner looking for land to build a new facility, Art Hance encourages considering land with an existing structure as an option. The team of experts at Hance Construction can help you evaluate the viability of the building as a candidate for refurbishing or repurposing into a new facility customized to your needs. Your ribbon cutting might be sooner than expected!