Architecture Program


Date of this Version

May 2006


M. Arch. Thesis, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, May 2006.


It is the intention of this project to redevelop a vacant Wal-Mart store into an adult education/community center. With the ever changing nature of our retail environ¬ment vacant stores will become a part of our architectural scene, thus it is important to make considerations of what could be done with buildings, besides just tearing them down. There are several considerations that will be integral in developing a successful renovation of the abandoned store. These considerations include the aesthetic nature of a Wal-Mart, the program elements that should be offered, the integration of light into such a large structure, entries into the building, the develop¬ment of the large parking lot in front of the building, and sustainability.

A project such as this is quite relevant in today’s architecture profession. With the constant change of our retail and economic needs, vacant buildings will be part of our environment. Many of these buildings, such as a vacant Wal-Mart, are large re¬tail stores that have very open floor plans. Within theses floor plans, any number of programs could fill the space. Choosing to develop an community center in a vacant Wal-Mart will not only take away an unused building, but will also serve the mem¬bers of the surrounding community.

The proposed location for this project is in Omaha, Nebraska. Located off of I-680, at the corner of 103rd and Fort Street, there is a vacant Wal-Mart store. The loca¬tion of this store would be convenient to staff and students that would use the new education center. Within close proximity to the vacant store are other commercial and retail facilities. So one could run errands before or after classes, or come to classes if they work nearby. Having access to and from I-680 is an additional bene¬fit. The center would be easy to locate and would be a direct route for many users.

Whether currently in use or abandoned, a Wal-Mart store has a recognizable quality to it. In redeveloping the Wal-Mart it will be important to consider the aesthetics of making it into a building that is not recognizable as a former Wal-Mart. Redevelop¬ing the building with a different aesthetic will become a positive way to impact the environment around the building. When it comes to Wal-Mart stores many people have take the not-in-my-backyard thought process and to turn a building into some¬thing that has a desirable aesthetic can potentially benefit the community in ways such as increased property value. Additionally, if community members see that an abandoned store has become something positive for the community then that could serve for inspiration for other vacant spaces to be developed into useful buildings.

Deciding on the type of programs that should be offered will require research into current adult education and community centers, as well as the demographics of the area that the center would serve. The program offered in this building will be based on the community around the education center. In looking into the Omaha area it will be necessary to see if adults are looking to take classes to earn GED’s, learn a second language, or hobby classes. Offering classes that will teach people skills that will help them find jobs will be important in selecting the courses that are offered. Looking into community colleges in the area can also provide for ideas as to what program elements should be included. Not only would redeveloping a Wal-Mart benefit the aesthetics of the community, it could also potentially help with the employment abilities within the community.

If the program that is developed offers classes during the day or early evening, it might be necessary to incorporate a daycare or childcare area for parents with chil¬dren. If a parent during the day wants to take classes and has young children, they could bring them with them for an hour or so and know that they are being taken care of nearby. Or if parents are taking evening classes and need to pick up kids between work and school, then they could bring them to their classes again knowing that they were being taken cared for. Creating a daycare could also be an additional way to educate any persons interested in learning how to take care of children or learn how to run a day care should have they the desire to start a business of their own. Also included within program requirements will be the need to address office requirements. There will need to be offices for teachers and administration. Con¬sidering that we live in a technology based society these days, the incorporation of computer labs will become important to the meet the needs of the center. Library, lobby, and study spaces will also need to be programmed into the building.

The box-like nature of Wal-Mart poses some interesting issues when it comes to natural light and circulation. Aside from the entry doors on a Wal-Mart there is no other access to exterior lighting. It will be a goal to integrate natural light into the redevelopment of the building. Potentially using light to articulate hallways or circulation paths could bring an interesting way to add light to the space. With the Wal-Mart being such a large space the potential for an interesting circulation pattern is a possible way to add an additional element of interest to the project.

The size and structure of Wal-Mart could potentially allow for a second floor to be added should that be necessary. Also the current form of the store with a flat roof could potentially suggest the notion of a rooftop garden or maybe even a green roof. Looking at ways to make the building more sustainable could become a great way to save costs for the building owners, and those savings could potentially trans¬late into savings for students. Sustainability can also occur through reusing building materials, from the old building into the new. Currently Wal-Mart buildings do not appear to have a lot of consideration for sustainability, but those aspects and ele¬ments should be introduced when considering redevelopment of the space.

In regards to the vast parking lot found in front of the Wal-Mart that will also need to be addressed. Putting a courtyard or a small park there could become a way to break up the space. Creating a community and educational park would provide another way to bring community members together. Additionally, the gardens within the park could help to fuel other program within the community center, such as a café. In front of the Wal-Mart there is a large parking lot which serves the purpose of the store.

A project such as this is important in the architecture of today and the future. With the constant change of retail spaces we are often left with undesirable spaces that could hold programs that will be more beneficial to the community than a vacant building. I feel that it is important to redevelop these spaces with program that can continue to serve a community and its people.

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