Western Electric SDAT

SDAT Program Seeking Public Input

The City of Burlington will host the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) from Wednesday, September 19th through Friday, September 21st.

Burlington was one of a select few that were chosen in the nation for this grant. The SDAT program is a three-day program designed to help communities develop a vision for a sustainable future and a realistic, attainable roadmap for the reuse of significant property in their community. The program will bring teams of experts including architects, urban designers, landscape architects, planners, economists, and others to work with Burlington leaders, stakeholders, and citizens. The result will be a broad assessment that helps frame a plan for reuse of the Western Electric Plant in Burlington.

Burlington’s SDAT program will be led by Tom Liebel, a national leader in sustainable design principles. Liebel says: “We are excited to bring the proven success of the American Institute of Architects Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) process to Burlington. Bringing a team of collaboratively-minded professionals to work within a community to assist neighbors, local community organizations and other stakeholders in unlocking the hidden potential of a site is incredibly rewarding.”

During the three day program, the public will have many opportunities to participate. Public events are listed below:


  • 8:00am - Community & City Council Breakfast 
    The SDAT team will introduce the process and receive input from City Council and community stakeholders. This event will take place at Western Electric, 204 N. Graham Hopedale Road.
  • 5:00pm-6:00pm - Guided Tours of Western Electric Plant and Grounds 
  • 6pm-7:30pm - Public Input Session: The SDAT team will be hosting an input session on the Western Electric property.


6:00pm - SDAT Presentation of Team Findings The SDAT will provide an early capstone of the research and conclusions of the visit. This public event will be held at ABSS Central Office Auditorium, located at 1712 Vaughn Road, Burlington, NC 27217.

As part of this program, a team of stakeholders has been developed. The stakeholders will work with the SDAT members throughout the visit. Kathy Coville, Healthy Communities Director at Cone Health and stakeholder committee member, stated “East Burlington has a proud history and the potential to come back stronger than ever. The Western Electric plant was a critical economic engine for decades, creating opportunity for families across Alamance County. We are thrilled to join our partners in a vision to renew that fire.”

Following the visit, the SDAT will continue to work and develop a more comprehensive report that will be shared with Burlington City Council at a later date.

The City of Burlington would like to encourage members of the public to attend these events, share their feedback, and learn about the exciting opportunities the Western Electric facility could pose for our community!

Western Electric 

Awarded American Institute of Architects Grant

The City of Burlington has been selected by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to receive a 2018 Sustainable Design Assistance Team (SDAT) grant.  

The grant will provide the City with a multi-disciplinary AIA project team that will work with community stakeholders to build a shared, sustainable vision and comprehensive master plan for the redevelopment of the former Western Electric facility on North Graham-Hopedale Road.

In addition to providing volunteer design experts, the AIA will contribute up to $15,000 toward the process. The City is providing $5,000 in matching funds.  The total estimated value of the AIA grant is $175,000.

The AIA has helped more than 200 cities use interdisciplinary design expertise to solve community problems over the last 50 years, according to Erin Simmons, AIA’s Senior Director of Design Assistance. “The redevelopment of the former Western Electric facility presents a unique opportunity for the revitalization of both the site and the surrounding neighborhoods. The SDAT program is looking forward to working with residents and stakeholders to develop an overall vision coupled with actionable recommendations for the project area,” she said.

Located on the east side of the City, Western Electric is a 22-acre former US Army missile & communications systems manufacturing site with 760,000 square feet of space in 16 buildings. At its peak in the 1960’s, this plant employed almost 4,000 engineers, technicians and line workers. Entire neighborhoods, schools and shopping areas were built nearby to serve the plant.

Employment slowly declined at the plant as the Cold War ended.  In 1991, the facility officially closed.  The property was sold by the US Government in 2004; it has been predominantly vacant since.  In 2016, the plant was added to the National Register of Historic Places to encourage tax credit investors and historic redevelopment.  

How can this former plant anchor a vibrant, sustainable economic future?  The SDAT process is designed to align multiple resources and stakeholders to create a series of actionable steps that will lead to neighborhood revitalization, new investment and new opportunities for the community.  Action steps will be developed based on the priority issues and needs identified by the SDAT Steering Committee and feedback from the AIA SDAT team members.

The representatives of the diverse Steering Committee, which consists of representatives from area governmental agencies, non-profits, religious institutions, and businesses, convened with the City’s assigned AIA project team leader, Tom Liebel, to kick off the process.  Mr. Liebel is a Baltimore, MD based architect and a leading voice on adaptive reuse and historic preservation projects nationwide. His projects have won multiple awards from the Urban Land Institute, AIA and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Liebel is a Fellow at the AIA and was one of the first architects in the country to receive the LEED Accredited Professional designation.    

The final SDAT presentation is expected to take place in fall 2018.  The final SDAT report is anticipated to be delivered to the City of Burlington winter 2018

Western Electric Site

Aerial WE Site

Western Electric Building

Current WE

Historic Western Electric

Historic WE

SDAT Community Steering Committee

Ian BaltutisMayor, City of Burlington
Jenny FaulknerPublic Information Officer, ABSS
Bryan HagoodManager, Alamance County
Lisa EdwardsGate City Dream Center
Ann MeletzkeExecutive Director, Healthy Alamance
Kathy ColvilleCone Health
Steven BalogPast President, Burlington Civitan Club
David SpruillChair, Martin Luther King, Jr. Coalition
Jose SilvaOwner, Burlington Insurance Agency 
Jeff Johnson, AIAProject Leader, Alley, Williams, Carmen & King
Daniel ShoffnerStrategic Initiatives Manager, BFD
April DurrDirector of Community Impact, United Way of Alamance County
Veronica RevelsExecutive Director, Burlington Housing Authority