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Adaptive reuse: Transforming investment properties

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    Have you ever been to an apartment building shaped like a church? Or a community walkway that felt like a train track? If the answer is yes, you may know more about adaptive reuse than you even realize.

    As modern society continues to urbanize and rural areas become fewer and farther between, architectural trends are responding. It’s estimated that by 2050, approximately 90% of the human population may be city-dwellers. To prevent overextending already-crowded cities and remain cognizant of limited land supply, developers are finding innovative ways to repurpose old structures through adaptive reuse.

    What is adaptive reuse?

    Adaptive reuse, sometimes called building reuse, is an architectural practice that involves rehabilitating old (often historical) buildings or sites by fixing them up and giving them a new and different purpose from the structure’s original intention. In many cases, the renovation is something that provides value to the community, like turning a historic structure into an apartment building, entertainment venue or school.

    Adaptive reuse shouldn’t be confused with historic preservation or house flipping. Historical preservation is the practice of preserving, conserving and protecting places or things with historical significance, while house flipping involves purchasing a residential property, renovating and turning it for profit. As such, historic preservation sites are typically legally protected from adaptive reuse, or any other public projects. They are meant to remain as a celebration or representation of their history.

    How does adaptive reuse architecture work?

    While the concept of turning something old into something new may be enticing, there are many considerations that go into a successful adaptive reuse project. You’ll need the right investor, the right type of property and the right financing for the investment. Adaptive reuse properties are typically purchased and renovated by commercial investors using commercial and construction loans due to the scale of the investment.

    If you’re looking to learn more about investing in adaptive reuse architecture, you may need a real estate agent or company that specializes in finding these unique types of properties. Before you begin construction or even purchase the property, you’ll need to educate yourself on potential restrictions associated with the property. For example, specific zoning rules or regulations. There may be limitations on what you can change or how the space may be used. It would be in your best interest to seek legal and real estate advice from a professional.

    Why is adaptive reuse important?

    There are many reasons why adaptive reuse architecture may be significant for today’s society:

    • Social impact:Adaptive reuse provides the opportunity to create social impact by repurposing old spaces into facilities that might benefit a community. For example, turning an old building into a community learning center to help engage residents and provide valuable services and activities to potentially underserved communities.
    • Honors historical buildings:Adaptive reuse may help honor history by keeping the structural integrity of a space intact while still breathing new life into it. Although the building's purpose will change, the exteriors of adaptive reuse structures are often kept intact. In this way, the space's memory remains, even as it becomes something newly productive and useful for the community.
    • Potential environmental benefits:Adaptive reuse aims to be environmentally friendly, putting the saying “reduce, reuse, recycle” into action. Adaptive reuse limits the need for additional materials by using the already-existing structure of a building, reusing the bones while up-cycling the space.

    Examples of adaptive reuse architecture

    There are many real-world examples of adaptive reuse architecture. If you’re curious about checking one out, here are a few examples of building reuse around the country:

    • The NYC High Line:Located in Chelsea, the NYC High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line.
    • Portland Japanese Gardens: Located in Portland, Oregon, the Portland Japanese Garden sits on top of an old zoo site, and was deemed one of the most beautiful and authentic Japanese gardens in the world outside of Japan by a former Japanese ambassador.
    • The Mattress Factory: Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Mattress Factory is an old mattress factory and home turned into a museum laboratory showcasing artists’ work from around the world.
    • Union Station: Located in Denver, Colorado, Union Station was formally a well-renowned hub for train travel, now transformed into a cultural destination made for shopping and dining.
    • The Green Building: Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the Green Building was a dry goods store turned into a mixed-use commercial space and hub for art, culture and sustainability projects within the community

    In summary

    Adaptive reuse is an architectural practice that focuses on turning old, sometimes historic structures into updated, forward-thinking spaces meant to benefit the surrounding community. Adaptive reuse projects are typically financed by commercial investors. Their social impact, historical significance and often environmentally friendly nature make them something interesting to look out for. Who knows? The old church on your block may be the next hottest club.

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