Milk District businesses repurpose existing buildings

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Sideward Brewing is one example of how businesses entering the Milk District have elected to repurpose existing structures rather than building from scratch. Sideward’s current building was once a warehouse. (Photo by S.T. Cardinal)

“Repair, not replace” has been the trend for newly opened businesses in the Milk District.

Zac Alfson is the executive director of the Milk Street District and spent a portion of his time speaking at the State of the Milk about commercial buildings in the district that have been repurposed by their new tenants. He said Main Street Districts are rooted in historic preservation.

“The idea is that if your historic structures are well-loved, well taken care of and have a successful business community within them, they won’t fall victim to the wrecking ball,” Alfson said. “We’ve been very fortunate over the last year or so to have three amazing projects come online that are adaptive reuse.”

Adaptive reuse is when a building is reused for a purpose other than what it was originally designed for. Sideward Brewing, Alchemy Hair Salon and the Barton Malow Company all decided to relocate to the Milk District in the past year.

Rather than build anew, these companies elected to renovate existing structures to fit their purpose. Alchemy converted a dental/medical building to a hair studio; Sideward converted a warehouse into a brewery; and the Barton Malow Company repurposed Barnie’s Coffee and Tea warehouses into a corporate office building.

Representatives from Alchemy, Barton Malow and Sideward were invited to speak at a panel during the State of the Milk, which was held July 31 at the Plaza Live.

“I think what we idolized about other cities and their breweries was that all these places have character because there’s history to them,” said Mandy Protheroe, general manager and co-founder of Sideward Brewing. “What we noticed a lot here — not to poke at anybody — but a lot of it is going into strip malls because that’s what’s available to us. To try to fabricate that history or character is almost a task in and of itself.”

When the owners of Sideward Brewing were deciding on a location for their new business, the community feel of the Milk District made a difference.

“I feel like the community aspect is important. Going into a neighborhood that we all believe in is super important to me and the people in this room,” Protheroe said at the State of the Milk. “[Sideward Co-Founder] Garrett [Ward] and I had a lot of friends move away a few years ago, saying ‘Orlando sucks,’ and I just don’t think they tried hard enough, honestly. So, helping at least try to nourish that sense of community is important. It’s why we’re here.”

Alchemy outgrew their College Park location and opted to move to a former dental/medical building in the Milk District. Gabby Lothrop is the project manager of Alchemy and said that their current location has more than double the square footage of the former location.

“[Corrinne Gammichia] has been running Alchemy for 20 years, and she had reached a point in the original College Park location where she had 42 employees in under 1,500 square feet,” Lothrop said.

Lothrop said Gammichia asked customers on social media where they should relocate, and the Milk District was the most popular destination.

Chris Moeller is the vice president of Barton Mallow Company and said the decision on where to move the company was decided by a company-wide survey. Responses showed that employees’ most desired amenities included surface parking, plenty of dining options and a sense of neighborhood.

Moeller said within two weeks of moving in, neighboring businesses came by with bagels and doughnuts welcoming them to the community. He said that being part of a community, not an office building, was a major reason Barton Mallow decided to repurpose a building in the Milk District for their new office space.

“We just loved the location,” Moeller said. “We wanted to be part of a neighborhood and not part of downtown, high-rise office buildings.”

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