Excitingly, Kirsten Moore, owner of Magpie Diner and The Perch at Magpie, received a 2021 VMS Merit Award for Best Adaptive Reuse, which recognizes an entity, individual or business that has completed an outstanding historic rehabilitation and/or adaptive reuse of a building. Moore was nominated by Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance (HDR), the city’s local Advancing Virginia Main Street (AVMS) program.
Throughout 2019 and 2020, a former tire repair shop that was built in the 1940’s was reinvented to become one of the hippest spots in Downtown Harrisonburg. With the help of federal and state historic tax credits, a once-sleepy corner with no foot traffic was transformed into a flurry of activity in July 2020 due to the opening of a mixed-use adaptive rehabilitation of the former Big L Tire building. The newly rehabilitated building included an upper story co-working space, known as The Perch, as well as a bakery, coffee roaster and diner on the ground floor, called Magpie.
Led by Kirsten Moore (left), who acted as the project manager for the rehabilitation, a community-based development team brought the approximately $1.8 million bird-themed redevelopment to life. The rundown building was transformed into a sleek white building with exposed brick and an edgy industrial vibe inside. As a federal and state historic tax credit project, some modifications were not allowed – like adding windows. But, they did allow for cool features like retaining the original roll up garage doors and wide sidewalks, which created a large area for outdoor seating. The biggest challenge, however, was its siting – Big L is a three sided structure with one of the sides flanking train tracks. That entire side of the building was unusable for pedestrian activity, entrances or “back-of-the-house” aspects of the business. However, clever design and a savvy understanding of local building code allowed Magpie and The Perch to optimize their space with two usable sides of the building. When looking at it today, you would never know this was a challenge!
Throughout the pandemic, customers felt safe due to the spacious dining room with high ceilings, the ability to open the garage doors for more air flow and the large outdoor dining space. Due to these and other reasons, Magpie had a line out the door on weekends and there was usually a wait for a table during the week. Today, the coffee roaster and bakery remain quite popular. The bakery often sells out of items before they close, and The Perch is home to a wide variety of entrepreneurs – architects, nonprofits, tech workers and journalists.
Undoubtedly, the difference is night and day from when the building was a mere auto shop. The project has been a catalyst for making the north end of Downtown Harrisonburg a destination in its own right, and HDR is thrilled to celebrate this adaptive reuse project and the thriving successful businesses inside!
Click here to view the recorded 2021 VMS Merit Award presentation!