Surveying the Rising Trend of Office-to-Residential Conversions

With office vacancies climbing and a stubborn supply crunch driving up the cost of housing, some downtowns have emerged at the forefront of a new wave of adaptive reuse.

2 minute read

August 2, 2022, 12:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Los Angeles Downtown Historic Core

The Downtown Los Angeles Historic Core has new life thanks to the city's Adaptive Reuse Ordinance. More cities are seeing office-to-residential conversions as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. | Omar Bárcena / Flickr

Writing for CoStar News, Jack Witthaus documents the increasing number of office-to-residential conversions—known in planning parlance as adaptive reuse—underway around the United States.

Office-to-residential conversions are occurring nationally as demand for office space fades. One Wall Street, the former home of Irving Trust bank, recently wrapped its five-year, $1.5 billion transformation into a condo building in lower Manhattan. It is now the biggest office-to-residential conversion in the city’s history. In Salt Lake City, Houston-based developer Hines plans to convert the 217,000-square-foot, 24-story South Temple Tower in downtown Salt Lake City into a 255-unit luxury apartment complex. Projects are also in the works in Dallas and Atlanta and in Tacoma, Washington, among other cities.

Witthaus helpfully notes a few states where legislators have passed laws to assist the trend. In California, for example, where the market demand for adaptive reuse is particularly strong, the state’s latest budget included “calls for spending $400 million as an incentive to developers to convert commercial and office buildings into affordable housing in the budget years 2022-23 and 2023-24.” In New York, “Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill into law in June to simplify the process to convert some hotels within or near residential zoning districts to operate as permanent residential spaces. These hotel conversions may be eligible for some funding through state grants.”

The article documents many of the challenges facing office-to-residential conversions to help readers make sense of the scale of the potential to address the nation’s housing shortage through adaptive reuse. Challenges include location—office buildings aren’t always located near amenities that would serve residents—and construction issues like making windows operable for residences.

Witthaus also notes that the new office stock in California and the Sun Belt is better suited for adaptive reuse.

The article includes a lot more detail and analysis, including specific numbers on office vacancies in California’s troubled downtown office markets.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022 in CoStar Group News

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