Philadelphia Leads the Way in Adaptive Reuse

Philadelphia, a city rife with historic architecture, seeks to incentivize more conversion of historic buildings into housing.

2 minute read

May 2, 2022, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


City Hall Philadelphia

DMZ111 / Flickr

According to an article by Taylor Allen, “The number of old buildings being converted into apartments is on the rise across the country. Converted units have nearly quadrupled since 2010, from 5,271 to 20,122 by the end of 2021.” Focusing on Philadelphia, Allen notes that “Philadelphia converted a total of 1,863 units in 2020 and 2021 combined, the most of any U.S. city over that two-year period, according to a report from Rent Cafe.”

However, in part due to the higher cost of converting old buildings, “The overwhelming majority of redevelopment in the city is still new construction, according to Drexel University economist Kevin Gillen.” The city aims to change that through incentives that encourage developers to repurpose old buildings. “A bill that took effect this year is starting to phase out the city's 10-year property tax abatement for new residential construction. But, there’s a caveat for converted properties, which get to keep the entire 10-year tax incentive.” Additionally, “As of 2019, Rehab projects that are historically designated don't have to provide parking, and some get zoning perks.”

Paul Steinke, executive director of the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, expressed hope that affordable housing developers could play a larger role in the conversion of historic buildings. “It'd be great to see more adaptive reuse for affordable housing since there’s quite a bit for market-rate housing,” Steinke said.

Thursday, April 28, 2022 in Axios

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