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New Life for Urban Manufacturing Districts

This fall, Tim Love, Graduate Director and School of Architecture faculty member lead a Graduate Research Studio on New Life for Urban Manufacturing Districts.

Every large American city has a dedicated manufacturing and industrial district that was created from scratch in the late 1950s and 1960s to remove industry from the central business districts and to relocate manufacturing companies to the new interstate highway system. Many of the districts, such as Newmarket in Boston, Mill River in New Haven, CT, and Morris Point in the Bronx, still have vital companies, but not at the density that they had at their inception and through the 1970s. The question today is what to do with these districts from an economic development and urban design standpoint. Until recently, “post-industrial” sites were often seen as targets for mixed use residential/commercial/retail development – modeled on the mix of (non-industrial) uses that made up the traditional city. More recently, public policy has highlighted the need to preserve and attract manufacturing jobs to the city, casting these once-forgotten districts in a new light.

In order to gain an in-depth understanding of urban manufacturing, the research team visited and analyzed a targeted range of local businesses. The goal of to the research was to better understand the advantages and challenges of an urban location and to understand the logistical and urban design issues that impact specific manufacturing facilities.

Through the analysis of six local models, the team was able to better understand the programmatic and spatial requirements of urban manufacturing across diverse scales of production and distribution. By visiting six facilities, they were able to compare dimensions, spatial adjacencies, and the flow of product during the production and distribution process. They also spoke with the business managers of each company to gain an understanding of the complex variables that affect their businesses. Through these visits the students were able to see and hear firsthand how each of these businesses operates and learn about the challenges and advantages of operating a business in the city. More broadly, their research was guided by these questions:

Which types and scales of manufacturing currently exist in the city? What non-industrial programs currently inhabit post-industrial buildings? What opportunities exist for mixed- use industrial sites?

See the publication Urban Manufacturing Districts here