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Factory futures

Parks, shops, housing best at Carlisle sites, businesses say

Ask a few business owners near Carlisle’s former industrial properties what they think should rise from the dust and debris of factory demolition and the answers are similar: housing, parks or small neighborhood shops to serve residents.

The largest problem with former factories on Carlisle’s north side — Masland/IAC, Tire & Wheel and Tyco Electronics — is that they’re in the middle of or adjacent to large residential neighborhoods with nearby business districts.

Some business owners said they wouldn’t mind having more company, especially if it meant a few more jobs to replace even a fraction of those lost when the factories closed.

“At first I didn’t like this, because two of the largest employers in Carlisle on either end of my street went out of business,” said Jim Gibson, owner of Firehouse Antiques at North West and C streets.

A block west is the former Tire & Wheel factory, today just empty buildings and a growing pile of rubble as concrete-crushing machines pulverize what’s left of the company that made vehicle parts going back to 1917.

At the other end of C Street is the former Masland/IAC carpet and auto interiors factory. The factory spun out carpet and other products for 90 years, but it, too, is slowly becoming little more than rubble and dust. Together, the companies employed thousands of people at their heights of production.

Carlisle rezoned the former factory properties to mixed-use commercial last year and expanded its tax abatement zone to incentivize redevelopment.

It also hired Somerset County-based Stromberg/Garrigan & Associates Inc. in December to study the redevelopment options and engage the community in that process. The firm is planning workshops March 11-14 to take public input on the sites.

Housing for senior citizens, medical offices and small shops would be best for the Tire & Wheel property, Gibson said.

RE Invest Solutions, a New York-based planner with experience in converting industrial properties, has said medical offices and some residential development might be a good fit for the Tire & Wheel property. The company is overseeing the demolition and cleanup of the factory site.

The residential neighborhoods nearby are a big issue, even for business owners, but almost anything is better than vacant factories, they said.

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