The Tricky Business Of Transforming Factories Into Schools

A growing number of abandoned buildings are receiving a new life. The Tricky Business Of Transforming Factories Into Schools Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

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You might have heard about efforts in many cities to repurpose vacant office and retail spaces into affordable housing, but that’s not the only type of abandoned real estate that is being put to new use.

In many areas across the United States that were once industrial powerhouses, there are factories that have not been used in many years and are currently in varying stages of disrepair. Now, innovative local leaders are beginning to rebuild these distinctive structures with an eye toward education.

Purdue Polytechnic High School

One Indianapolis example set the bar for similar projects across the country. The same brick factory that once produced washing machines, batteries, and radios is now tasked with creating something even more important: a generation of students with the knowledge necessary to tackle the future.

Two floors of the structure, which had not been used for about three decades, received a new purpose as the Purdue Polytechnic High School as part of a major renovation that started in 2020.

The charter school is only one of the building’s tenants, but it boasts a roster of about 600 students and was made possible in part by tax credits offered for renovating the historic structure.

Thinking outside of the big box store

While factories offer intriguing options for districts in need of new educational facilities, there are many other types of structures that have received similar renovations in recent years.

A few of the more inventive examples include:

  • Churches
  • Department stores
  • A laser tag arena

In most cases, the resulting facility is some type of charter school — and they are generally located in underserved urban areas.

Charter schools tend to have more freedom about how they operate, which opens up opportunities to transform existing spaces into state-of-the-art classrooms.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee May 10th, 2023
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