Venango County Business Innovation CenterOil City, PA

Oil City is a town of 10,000 people located along the Allegheny River about two hours north of Pittsburgh. Like many industrial towns in Western PA, Oil City has faced an economic downturn since the decline in the manufacturing and raw materials economy at the end of the 20th century. In response, local government has ignited a number of efforts to revitalize the city and protect its historic structures. In 2017, our studio completed a study regarding the renovation of Oil City’s historic Cornplanter Square building. Purpose-built for the Oil City National Bank in 1926, the six-story building functioned as a bank under various managements until it was abandoned in the mid-2000s.

Venango County developed a vision to convert the old bank building into a Business Incubation Center (BIC) that would provide low-cost incubation space for startup companies to grow, with the goal of eventually moving them out to local real estate to mature. Additionally, Venango County has proposed combining this BIC with a brew pub and events program, to be managed by a local restaurateur. This ambitious combination has the potential to create a dynamic center of energy and activity for the region, providing additional services and business opportunities to Oil City and neighboring communities.

designLAB is currently overseeing the massive interior demolition effort of the Cornplanter Square building, which involves the mitigation of hazardous materials. We have completed concept design and programming for both the BIC and brew pub spaces, and are working closely with the Venango County Redevelopment Authority as fundraising continues.

Occupying the three upper levels of the Cornplanter Square building, the Business Innovation Center will combine open office space with associated support, group conference rooms, and shared core. While being a cutting edge space, the BIC will also be “rough and ready” - HVAC, structure, and plumbing systems exposed in open office areas, limited numbers of partitions and hung ceilings, and a generally industrial quality which will both limit new construction costs and resonate with the vernacular qualities of factory and manufacturing workspaces in Western Pennsylvania.