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Ottumwa Career Campus interior seating area with grey and red baffles above mixed seating space
Ottumwa Career Campus

Repurposing the Market on Main


Ottumwa Community School District

Project Location

Ottumwa, IA


11,000 SF


Adaptive Reuse

A market. A place where parties gather to facilitate the exchange of goods and services. A connector of people, products, and ideas. In Ottumwa, Iowa, our design transforms a once-thriving market into a career campus that connects students to industry-based education and training tailored specifically to the region’s workforce development.

Market on Main, an empty historic building at a prominent downtown corner, paved the way for the new Ottumwa Career Campus. The approximately 11,000-SF adaptive-reuse facility supports various career programs and is viewed as a long-term investment in the future of education for the community. Ottumwa Community School District leaders came together with designers and local business trailblazers to reimagine the former market as a new, innovative learning environment to support high-demand career fields. This intentional collaboration between local businesses and organizations ensure that the programs are relevant and that the real-life experiences prepare students for rewarding careers.

Marketplace for Learning

The Ottumwa Career Campus project embodies revitalization – capitalizing on the rebuilding of an historic downtown; a district’s desire to increase learning opportunities for all students; and partnerships that foster economic and workforce growth.

Career Preparedness

Real-World Experiences

The facility is a conduit between community businesses, Ottumwa Main Street Organization, industry partners, and the school system. Students are downtown, in the heart of Ottumwa. This allows community strategic planning partnerships to be fostered while students learn employability and post-secondary skills, make real-world connections, and build lasting relationships. Students “earn while they learn” in registered apprenticeships and internships. The Culinary Arts Lab also operates Bulldog Café, a pastry and coffee bar fronting Main Street. This location creates opportunity for community connections and promotes collaboration between students and their environment.

students dine in Bulldog Cafe, exposed brick walls, high-ceilings, exposed ductwork, counter and booth seating, large video screen menu display, polished concrete flooring, signage
Adaptable Design

Transitional Environment

The space is designed to flex and flow, supporting inter-disciplinary and team-teaching opportunities and a variety of educational activities. Inherent flexibility encourages students and educators to open instructional areas to each other and to collaborative spaces throughout. Glass garage doors give visitors a glimpse into student work happening inside labs, while a pocket park allows students to continue their learning outdoors. In addition to an abundance of transparency and flexibility built into the campus, the space transitions from day to night activities. During the day, students learn and apply hands-on lessons. At night, the collaborative area houses school board meetings and other community-based events.

Premier Marketplace

Location & Layout

The campus serves as the anchor to downtown and is a staple of Main Street. The output of learning that occurs inside the building is positioning the city to thrive. It is the lifeblood to what the community calls “growing our own” for a future talent pipeline that supports local economic development. The building layout creates a grid parti to allow flexible use of the spaces to accommodate the ever-changing industries offered on campus. Referencing the traditional marketplace of small stalls around a central gathering point, learning studios are placed around a centralized collaboration zone to emphasize connections. Overhead glass doors open to expand the space and create a commerce-like vibe throughout.

3-D floorplan for career campus
Abbreviated Schedule

Fast-Track Delivery

With only eight months to deliver visioning, design, and construction, every minute counted. Repurposing a building with existing systems and infrastructure adds another layer of complexity to the fast-paced schedule. Although a potential obstacle, the existing building is a true community asset. Its location on Main Street is the ideal spot to celebrate and display learning that occurs within and for the community. We successfully maneuvered the limited footprint and existing conditions to meet the community’s dream of transforming this vacant space into a collaborative, future-facing learning environment.

Street view of career campus building from s. jefferson, lighted signage, traffic lights, blue sky, light clouds
Physical Attributes

Existing Conditions

The existing building is the anchor of the downtown corridor. Its brick façade and prominent corner location position it as the recognized gathering spot within the city’s core. The transformation celebrates its significance in the community and respects its storied past. Exposed brick and original features are carefully restored to function as a learning hub. Limited to the existing footprint, the design allows for critical building functions, infrastructure, and systems to remain intact. For instance, students in the Culinary Arts program benefit from a commercial kitchen and equipment that were integral in the Market on Main facility. The commercial hood, cooking equipment, and casework are found in the lab and coffee shop today.

culinary arts lab in career center, students hone their knife skills on stainless work tables, walk-in refrigerator/freezer, florescent lighting

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