As every commercial real estate owner knows, it’s important to revive vacant property as quickly as possible since unoccupied property drains cash flow, impacts the site’s value, and poses liability risks. Vacant structures are linked to increased crime rates, including arson and vandalism. Plus, insurance, taxes, and maintenance must be kept up whether or not the property is occupied.
Many commercial property owners are finding that adaptive reuse, i.e., repurposing an existing building for an entirely new and different use, offers an opportunity to revitalize the property and give new life to the surrounding community.
We’ve included seven interesting examples of adaptive reuse that we’ve seen out there:
Empty suburban shopping malls or retail complexes can be transformed into lifestyle centers featuring hotels, restaurants, gyms, co-working office spaces, retail and entertainment venues, and civic amenities such as libraries.
Industrial buildings or warehouses have been retrofitted to become small workshops or craft breweries. The craft brewing business is booming, and large, sturdy warehouses are ideal for this type of business.
Distribution centers have been outfitted for new life as vertical farms. These large open spaces are perfect for vertical indoor growing, and this mode of farming requires far less land and water than a traditional farm. In addition to urban agriculture, urban aquaculture is also becoming a trend.
Schools are being repurposed as senior or communal living centers. Thousands of schools close down every year, and many of the campuses could easily be converted into residences for seniors or special needs populations.
Empty office buildings can be modified to accommodate multi-family living quarters. The demand for multifamily units is on the rise, especially in metropolitan areas. Through adaptive reuse, the need for more urban living space is being met.
Worldwide, cities are turning old industrial sites into public spaces that highlight the former usage and historic infrastructure of the area.
Vintage railway trestles, cobbled pathways, and water towers add charm and character to the sites. Examples include the High Line in New York City, which attracts more visitors than any other destination in the City, and the Gas Works Park in Seattle, which features remnants of a coal gasification plant.
Adaptive reuse is often less costly and less invasive than new construction. Some cities offer incentives for adaptive reuse, such as flexibility in building codes and zoning requirements or tax incentives.
Adaptive reuse is predicted to play an important role in the real estate ecosystem of the future. Repurposing old vacant structures can give a neighborhood a new lease on life, bolster the local economy, and enable people to live, shop, and play close to their workplaces.
If done in a thoughtful and sustainable way, adaptable reuse can also help preserve the social and cultural heritage of a region and provide a boon to the environment.
In many cases, a brewery, food co-op, or senior housing complex moving into a vacant site is a harbinger of impending urban revitalization.