Buildings made of natural materials, constructed at a human scale, and imbued with the stories of a community have been found to reduce stress, improve people’s ability to focus, and inspire greater creativity. Though we can construct new buildings with some of these characteristics, breathing new life into older buildings makes use of building stock that already has these attributes. The Great Western Sugar Factory train depots that stand at the corner of Monroe and the train tracks (between 10th and 11th streets in Loveland) are a great example of buildings that could be repurposed for the benefit of the community.

The main depot is accompanied by a smaller, freight depot (“less than a car load”) to the east.

The City of Loveland is currently considering what to do with the two depot buildings. They could be moved about 30 feet to the south, onto City property, where the possibilities for their use are nearly endless; they could be repurposed as a cafe, brewery, hair salon, corner store, etc. One advantage of moving them to a point that’s still near their current location is that they could be historically landmarked, which would enable the City to make use of substantial financial benefits available to historic structures through the State and Federal governments.

Another idea is to move them farther afield. One thought is to haul the buildings to an area around N. Garfield and W. 37th street, where they could be put to use as a transportation center. Another possibility would be to move them over to the Lone Tree School where they would be turned into a museum. But as wonderful as museums are, they generally don’t provide the public with the opportunity to settle into and spend time in a place, building a sense of connection with it, in the way that a cafe, a bookstore, or another active use of the space could do.

A BNSF train passes by the historic depot.

We still don’t know what’s going to become of these buildings that local preservationists are trying to save, but as northern Colorado continues to grow, we need to be thinking seriously about how we can adaptively reuse precious resources such as these that provide authenticity, distinctiveness, conserve the natural resources with which they were made, and provide connection to our local history.

If you’d like to learn more about how the buildings we live, work, shop and study in affect our lives, I recommend Sarah Williams Goldhagen’s book entitled Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives.