Toward a System of Adaptive Reuse Feasibility

A relative lack of conversions from office to residential—the adaptive reuse model driving the housing market in many urban areas—makes the Washington, D.C. region a perfect place to study the factors that make or break an adaptive reuse proposal.

November 21, 2017, 1:00 PM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Washington, D.C. Apartment

David Harmantas / Shutterstock

Cities around the country have spent recent years converting old office buildings into residential uses. The wave of adaptive reuse projects in some local cases could be credited with creating entirely new residential neighborhoods.

"Yet despite considerable media coverage, office conversion has been comparatively limited in greater Washington," according to Payton Chung.

Chung cites research from a 2016 report by Jones Lang LaSalle that counted only 26 conversion projects in Washington, D.C.; Montgomery County, Fairfax County, and Arlington County combined. The whole D.C. region has completed "scarcely more" office conversions than the city of Baltimore alone.

According to Chung, the reasons for D.C.'s resistance to office conversions fit into two broad categories: a relatively healthier office market and a lack of specific incentives adaptive reuse. That could be about to change, however, as "Fairfax County and Montgomery County have recently commissioned studies to investigate office building adaptive reuse." In studying the issue, a couple of useful themes have emerged that can help determine the feasibility of adaptive reuse in other contexts, namely, location, price, and layout.

Chung's article goes into a lot more detail on each of those three considerations.

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