D.C. Could Lead the Downtown Office Conversion Trend

Many urban cores around the country are faced with increasing office vacancies concurrently with a housing affordability crisis caused, at least in part, by a lack of supply. D.C. is particularly primed for a wave of adaptive reuse.

2 minute read

August 25, 2022, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Urban Living

V_E / Shutterstock

Josh Niland writes for Archinect: “Through the doldrums of America’s pandemic-triggered office downturn, the nation’s capital is quickly turning into a case study for the conversion of former commercial spaces into residential housing and mixed-use development.”

Niland’s assessment of the adaptive reuse market in the nation’s capital cites a number of sources, including a July article in the Washingtonian by Marisa M. Kashino that surveys various adaptive reuse projects (which Niland  refers to as office conversions).

D.C.'s Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development, John Falcicchio, told Kashino that adaptive reuse can be useful for creating a 24-7 feel—especially in Downtown D.C. “We need to do [adaptive reuse] to save downtown,” says Falcicchio. “The only way to do that is to have a better mix of uses.”

Also cited is a 2019 report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments indicating that the D.C. area needs to add 325,000 units before the end of the decade to keep pace with demand. The Lincoln Property Company estimated in spring 2022 that Washington, D.C. has an estimated 157.9 million square feet of rentable office space—a prime target for prospective developers.

Finally, Niland also references an article by Marissa J. Lang for the Washington Post from December 2021 when D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a new plan to spur adaptive reuse of vacant office buildings by “gathering input from current and prospective property owners on what they would need to consider transforming office structures into residences.”

Previous Planetizen coverage of adaptive reuse in the post-pandemic era (a Planetizen trend to watch in 2021):

Tuesday, August 9, 2022 in Archinect

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