Cities are turning grain silos into hot destinations

Towering structures dominate waterways across the country

Elevator Alley in Buffalo (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Elevator Alley in Buffalo (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Across the United States, there are more than 9,400 grain storage facilities still standing, not counting those on farms.

And cities are now looking to repurpose the hulking concrete structures from remnants of agricultural pasts into vibrant destinations, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“There are plenty of buildings in the world that are taller, but when you’re up against or inside [a silo], it seems bigger than life,” said David Tarbet, a historian of grain elevators and author of the book “Grain Dust Dreams. “The limits of one human being’s imagination are pushed by the hugeness of these structures.”

Because of their heft and size, grain elevators are notoriously difficult to demolish. So cities and developers are turning to other uses.

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Former HGTV personalities Chip and Joanna Gaines, for example, turned a pair of 120-foot-tall steel silos into a 2.6-acre market in 2015.

In South Africa, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in September debuted inside a complex of 42 grain silos in Cape Town that were converted in a $40 million project.

And closer to home in Buffalo, the city six years ago began turning a collection of hundreds of old grain elevators along the Buffalo River known as Elevator Alley into breweries, event spaces and the site of history tours.

“People used to laugh at the grain elevators and call them eyesores,” said Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo-Niagara Waterkeeper, a nonprofit group that looks over this part of the river. “And now people are embracing them and calling them iconic to the city.” [WSJ] – Rich Bockmann

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