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From adaptive reuse to place-based social enterprises in Newfoundland and Labrador: reflections from the periphery

16:30, Thursday 11 May 2023 EDT (30 minutes)

This research argues that an adaptive reuse of a structure accompanied with meaningful public activities and narrative creation of its significance to the community reinforce the community’s cultural territorialities of place and its social representation. This paper describes the role of adaptive reuse in creating new community hubs in coastal communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. Our research found that, beyond its economic return, repurposing an existing structure for a new use can increase community engagement, a sense of place and identity, and respond to rural community needs. Studies on adaptive reuse, which have primarily taken place in urban settings, have convincingly shown how creatively repurposing heritage and industrial buildings can create unique hospitality opportunities, enhance community life, and reduce carbon footprint by avoiding new construction projects. However, cost-saving economic considerations often still determine whether a building will be 2 converted or not. In rural areas, such discussion can be problematic since economic activities are often slower than their urban counterpart. Decisions to adaptively reuse built structures in rural communities thus should be focused on its social goals beyond the economic value of the conversion. Drawing on two examples – the Old Cottage Hospital in Norris Point and the Livyer’s Economusee in Boat Harbour – we investigate how rural communities create community value through the adaptive reuse of locally important buildings. In both cases, adaptive reuse of a structure has inspired the surrounding communities to perform communitas, which means conveying signs of active social rural life as opposed to the population loss. There are several social values that a repurposed structure can offer to the community. First, a repurposed structure can attract the community to start a community hub, including a social enterprise, as means to generate new economic activities to support the structure’s maintenance among others. Second, repurposed structures as new spaces inspire communities to experiment with diverse services and activities that are otherwise inaccessible to community members (e.g., acupuncture). Third, the activities hosted in these repurposed community spaces can improve liveability in rural communities facing population decline while reinforcing community identity. 

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