Breathing New Life Into Old Bones: How Adaptive Reuse Programs Revitalize Communities and Spur Economic Growth
Jared Byer - May 12, 2024

Ever driven by a forgotten building and wondered what it could become?  This 3-part blog series explores adaptive reuse, the transformative process of revitalizing abandoned buildings into bustling hubs, fostering economic growth and creating vibrant spaces for our communities to thrive.

Imagine a bank, built over 100 years ago to serve a thriving agricultural community, that now stands abandoned. Windows that once framed the light of opportunity are boarded shut with weathered plywood. The rooms where hopeful conversations took place are silent and empty, adorned by bits of crumbling plaster scattered across floors darkened by decades of neglect.

Adaptive Reuse: The Promise of Transformation
Now, fast forward to a future where that same bank undergoes a transformation that returns it to its original mission of nurturing hopes and dreams.

This transformation is called adaptive reuse. Although it's a modern term, it has roots that trace back centuries. Early examples can be found in ancient civilizations, where structures were repurposed to meet evolving needs.

In the United States, during the 1960s and 70s, community leaders collaborated with city planners, developers and elected officials to initiate a surge in adaptive reuse projects, often driven by a desire to preserve historic structures, provide needed space to live and work, and counter urban sprawl.

Adaptive Reuse: Creating New Value
Thoughtfully designed adaptive reuse projects benefit communities in several ways. Examples of successful projects include:

  • New York City's SoHo district: Artists played a significant role in the early adaptive reuse projects during the 1960s and 1970s. They transformed abandoned industrial lofts and warehouses into live-work spaces, galleries, and studios, establishing SoHo as a hub for the arts and contributing to its revitalization.
  • San Francisco: Transformation of the Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco is often cited as one of the pioneering adaptive reuse projects in the US.
  • Burlington, Iowa: The former train depot was converted into a community center that hosts a variety of events and has grown to become a popular gathering place for residents and visitors.
  • Salina, Kansas: The Lee Jeans Factory was converted into 53 apartments and office spaces.

From Abandoned Bank to....Meet the Non-Profit Dedicated to Preserving History
he Elk County Preservation Society, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, was established to preserve buildings, structures and locations in Elk County, Kansas via registration through the National Register of Historic Places. One of the group’s first official actions was to have the Howard National Bank placed on the registry, thereby affirming, and protecting, its cultural and architectural importance.

Although the years have taken a toll on the appearance of the Howard National Bank building, it remains an important symbol of the resolute character of the people of Elk County. If given a second chance, the building will again be a venue for dreams and hopes.

Imagine this building reborn as a vibrant center open and welcoming to all. By adaptively reusing the Howard National Bank building, we can recapture the  spirit of hope and opportunity that once thrived within its walls.

Join us in revitalizing the Howard National Bank through adaptive reuse! Your investment isn't just in a building; it's an investment in preserving our community's history and creating a vibrant future. Go to the Contact the Society page on this website and join the effort because, together, we will breathe new life into this iconic landmark and pave the way for sustainable growth and development in Elk County.

The second blog in this series is about the important work and positive impact of the Elk County Preservation Society on the adaptive reuse of the Howard National Bank.


Howard National Bank Rennovation Gains Momentum - October 2, 2023

Howard National Bank Renovation Gains Momentum
What began a few years ago as a labor of love dedicated to the preservation of the original Howard National Bank has transformed into a county-wide effort focused on serving K-12 students attending West Elk Schools. The non-profit Elk County Preservation Society is considering a proposal that would repurpose the bank building into a Center for Excellence designed and equipped to supplement the work of the school district's educators and administrators. The proposal being considered would provide state-of-the-art IT infrastructure and learning spaces to create distinctive environments available to all K-12 students.

The Center for Excellence will also be available to meet the information and training needs of local/regional agricultural and commercial businesses.

State-Wide Support
The IT and physical spaces will provide a strong foundation in which classes will be conducted in-person, and via streaming and archived presentations. Educators and professionals at Kansas universities, colleges, and non-profit education organizations are stepping in to bridge shortfalls identified by the school district.

In addition, private-sector businesses have given early indications that they will be willing to provide software and access to experts. These offers are important because their engagement would fill some funding requirements while providing experienced, knowledgeable instructors.

Your Ideas And Support Are Important
The success of the Kansas Center for Excellence ultimately depends on support from Elk County and surrounding areas. We need your ideas, suggestions and support. You can help right now by telling us what you think about the proposed use of the original Howard National Bank. Send your comments and ideas to:

Society Seeks Input - September 25, 2023

Modern Use for a Howard Icon
After successfully getting the original Howard National Bank on the National Register of Historic Buildings, the non-profit Elk County Preservation Society, [501 (c)3], initiated efforts to fund renovation of the 136 year-old structure.

West Elk Schools: K-12 Curriculum Enhancement
Parallel to this early phase work, the Elk County Preservation Society is asking for public comments on a proposal to repurpose the renovated building into multi-functional spaces to house classrooms equipped with technologies and amenities dedicated to enhancing the educational resources of the West Elk Schools USD 282 school district.

While K-12 school curriculum enhancement is a priority, the proposal being considered also allocates space for training and events held by public and private sector businesses and groups. It would also offer dedicated work areas to support county residents who require the ability to work remotely.

Howard Center for Excellence
A proposed name for the renovated and repurposed bank is the Howard Center for Excellence.

What do you think about the proposed use of the original Howard National Bank? Tell us…make your comments and ideas at





Silent Auction Fundraiser - November 18, 2020

Howard National Bank



Join us December 5 from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. for a Silent Auction fundraiser to support the restoration of Howard National Bank! On November 7, 2020, the Elk County Preservation Society received recognition for the Howard National Bank on the National Register of Historic Places. Join us for a Silent Auction to raise funds to begin the restoration of this beautiful building! Floor plans have been drawn and grant applications are underway. Need more information? Contact Debbie Roebuck ([email protected] or 620-779-1824).



We've Been Approved! - November 7, 2020


Today the Elk County Preservation Society received approval from the Kansas State Historic Preservation Office for the State and National Register of Historic Places! We are moving forward with grant applications and future plans and are excited to bring this building back to life in Howard. Join us in supporting our venture and energizing downtown Howard!



Live Auction to Support Our Restoration - October 3,  2020


This evening we joined in the inaugural fundraiser to restore the Howard National Bank. A grand time was had by all (can you say date night?) with dinner and fabulous auction items. Your support of this project was fabulous and we thank you for your support of our local community!


Wine and Cheese Fundraiser - September 26, 2020


What a glorious evening in the historic lobby of the Howard National Bank! International wines and cheeses were enjoyed by all as we begin funding the restoration of this icon building in Howard!