Meet Ames Shovel Works the MHN Excellence Silver in ‘Adaptive Reuse’

See a slideshow of the award-winning entry by Beacon Communities and Prellwitz Chilinski Associates.

North Easton, Mass.—A Silver winner in the MHN 2015 Excellence Awards Adaptive Reuse Category, Ames Shovel Works was achieved through a groundbreaking public-private partnership between Beacon Communities and the Town of Easton. Listed in 2009 on the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, the site has returned to its place as an economic driver of historic North Easton Village. The complex’s significant architecture has been restored and revived, converting a semi-vacant eyesore into a centerpiece showcasing Easton’s past and helping create its future.

Built between 1851 and 1928 by the Ames Shovel & Tool Co., this complex once employed more than 500 workers. It used linear assembly methods 50 years before Henry Ford to build shovels that were shipped across the globe and played a significant role in the industrial transformation of America, as well as the history of Massachusetts.

See the full list of MHN 2015 Excellence Award winners here.

In 2008, a developer controlling the site demolished significant portions of the complex, which led the site to be listed as an endangered historical landmark. The Easton community rallied to preserve the site, involving Beacon to obtain control of the property and execute a historic preservation redevelopment. In 2010, the people of Easton voted overwhelmingly to support the redevelopment.

Beacon recognized that opposition to the previous developer was an opportunity to craft a proposal aligning multiple constituencies’ interests. By addressing their goals and establishing partnerships, Beacon garnered community and financial support. The 113-unit development is 30 percent affordable at various income tiers, providing much-needed affordable housing and winning the support of affordable housing advocates, including awards of federal and state low-income housing tax credits. Beacon also utilized federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits, winning the support of historic preservation groups. In addition, the site was placed under a preservation restriction, protecting the buildings’ facades in perpetuity, and about 1.6 acres are deed-restricted as publicly accessible open space in perpetuity. Thus the development provides all three types of neighborhood development: affordable housing, historic preservation, and open space.

Prellwitz Chilinski Associates and Beacon Concepts (Beacon’s in-house design team) preserved the historically significant structures by transforming them into contemporary residences, creating modern, historically-respectful and light-filled apartment units that come in one- and two-bedroom floor plans. Factory artifacts are displayed onsite and signage describing the original manufacturing processes are housed in the buildings. The revived buildings are certified LEED Silver and Gold certified.