Eating Spam Downtown: A Story of Big Box Reuse
What to do with the empty boxes at the edge of town?
The small town of Austin, Minnesota, was faced with this question. They had an answer. The largest employer in town, Hormel Foods, swept-in and transformed an empty K-Mart into something special.
The Spam Museum is one-of-a-kind; there are no others. And, for this small town –home of the famous meat product – it’s an economic driver. Julia Christensen, author of the book Big Box Reuse, describes the feeling of driving into Austin.
In the early 2000s, the Spam Museum was celebrated as a best-practices example of a repurposing a big box store. Christensen continues;As you pull into Austin, MN, you begin to see billboards along the highway advertising the Spam Museum. The billboards say things like “The Spam Museum– Even we don’t really understand,” and “The Spam Museum– Yes, we do answer the ingredients question.” This sense of humor carries over into the actual museum, the shrine to the canned meat that is produced and packaged right there in Austin, Minnesota, otherwise known as Spam Town, USA.
The renovation on this building has barely left a trace of the original use. In fact, the actual shell of the structure is all that is left of the old K-Mart. Windows, doors, walls, ceilings, and the entire exterior have all been completely overhauled. … This location sat empty for many years, and as a result, the entire end of town began to decline in business, and eventually in value. A grocery store across the street also closed down, leaving another empty big box across the street. READ UP
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