Revitalizing a Town One Building at a Time


Michael Malcanas had a 10-year plan for his company Olde Towne Overhaul, which is buying and rehabilitating buildings to help revive downtown New Kensington. But now, just a couple of years into leasing those newly remodeled spaces to area businesses, Olde Towne Overhaul’s impact on the community is way ahead of schedule. “How many towns go from empty buildings to 20 new local retail residents?” he exclaimed.

Malcanas began with Voodoo Brewery, which opened in a former theater in 2019. Now, Malcanas has purchased more than a dozen buildings, remodeling them into functioning business spaces. These include a mixed-use space that he acquired with a loan from Bridgeway Capital. There is already a tenant in that property, a catering business, with more on the way.

With a background in residential real estate, Malcanas was no stranger to such projects. “We turn over foreclosed homes and see the impact that has on the neighborhood,” he said. “What about trying to do the same thing to the town?”

Now the impact is becoming clear: Even during COVID-19, 20 new businesses came into Olde Towne’s buildings. For Malcanas, part of that success is about making it easy for people to participate. Olde Towne offers lower rents and help with moving and building projects, often using donated and repurposed materials to keep costs down.

“It’s really a blueprint for every city,” he said. “If you just get the right amount of momentum, acquire the right amount of buildings, get the right incentives in place: There’s overwhelming support to get people back on the main streets.”

Retail tenants take pride in their window displays and public presence. It can even be tough to find parking, which Malcanas did not expect two years ago, when the streets were empty. “I thought I’d be begging people,” he said. “But people are still proud to be here. Once they saw a way to get involved, by moving their business out of their garage or spare bedroom onto the main street, they were not at all reluctant.”

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