Repurposing an Asset for Community and Economic Development


Rural and small communities face a unique set of challenges when applying economic development strategies designed for large urban areas. To combat this, the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD)facilitated a community workshop in Tuttle, North Dakota (pop. 80!) to learn more about what works and what can work better.

Community leaders had a vision to repurpose a vacant Tuttle Public School building as the Tuttle Rural Innovation Center – a multi-purpose space offering business development and educational resources in support of food entrepreneurs as well as civic space for community events. The community has raised funding through leveraging local assets as well as regional and national partners to stabilize the structure and complete necessary immediate repairs. They are in the process of creating a business plan and program structure that will serve the communities needs and attract an optimal mix of community use, local investment, and regional support.

Key components to their success include:

  • Layering programming and funding. Diverse partnerships allowed for efforts to reach deep into the community and achieve multiple community goals with limited resources. The space will accommodate arts, food, business, education, and civic life.
  • Meeting people where they are – literally. Early in the process, Tuttle opened a portion of the school for people to gather, learn from one another, and share ideas about what the space could become.
  • Advancing programs that are non-income generating as well as those that are. Offering simple events for community members created goodwill and a sense of ownership.
  • Flexibility in scope and schedule. Repurposing portions of the building occurred faster than they anticipated, while other efforts needed to be reconfigured based on new information. Tuttle remained flexible and responsive, able to re-chart
  • Communicating the process and building upon past success. As the renovation and development of the Center progresses, more residents and funders are interested in the project. They need to understand both the process that has already occurred and the success that has been achieved to retain and further the momentum.

We look forward to following the success of Tuttle as they continue to develop the Innovation Center.

Stay updated on what we're up to