Adaptive Reuse More Popular Than Ever, Study Says

The past decade saw more old commercial buildings transformed into residential buildings than any decade previous.

September 29, 2020, 12:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Brooklyn, New York City

solepsizm / Shutterstock

Alexandra Ciuntu explains the findings of a recent study by RentCafé, which quantifies the number of buildings converted from commercial to residential years in a 70-year history of adaptive reuse

According to the study, the last decade saw more adaptive reuse projects completed than ever, led by Chicago and New York City. Here's how Ciuntu summarizes the nature of adaptive reuse, as well as the key findings of the study:

The U.S. has its fair share of beautiful old buildings — many of them historical — that are often underused or even abandoned. But, through adaptive reuse, they can be repurposed and converted to residential use. This trend took off in last decade, when 778 old buildings were transitioned into apartment communities. In total, 1,876 such buildings have been converted into apartments since the 1950s. From abandoned dispensaries to vintage gramophone factories, we dug into Yardi Matrix data to uncover where these projects are most common and what they were in their past lives.

The article includes several useful charts and infographics to illustrate some of the report's findings, including this breakdown of adaptive reuse projects by decade.

Drilling down to geographic specificity, the report identified the Big Apple and the Windy City as two leading practitioners of adaptive reuse. In terms of numbers of buildings converted, Chicago leads the pack. In terms of number of apartment units created, New York leads the pack. Los Angeles and Philadelphia both appear at the top of the list in both metrics as well.

The study also quantifies the kinds of old commercial buildings most likely to be converted to residential uses, with factories leading the way, just ahead of hotels.

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