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Exclusive Q&A: JR van Dijs Principal On The Power Of Adaptive Reuse

Long Beach is home for JR van Dijs principal Jan Robert van Dijs, and he is truly devoted to it. What's in store for the future of Long Beach? Find out at Bisnow's Future of Long Beach event at 7:30am June 28 at Catalina Landing.


With a focus on adaptive reuse projects in the area and having worked in the industry for 30 years, Jan (pictured above with his wife, Kerstin, and his daughter, Alexandria) sees great potential in his hometown.

Bisnow: Why were you interested in starting your own company?

Jan Robert van Dijs: I think it was just an opportunity to work more on the types of projects I wanted to work on.


Bisnow: You concentrate on adaptive reuse and historical rehab. What do you like about it?

Jan Robert van Dijs: I like adaptive reuse from a very practical standpoint. From an urban standpoint, I like that old buildings provide a texture and a structure to a city and give it some integrity and a degree of character. You can always tell a city or an urban area where they’ve just destroyed all their historical infrastructure, and it doesn’t seem so viable. You’re now looking at communities that are having huge resurgences—ones that had really struggled economically—and they seem to be, for the most part, cities that were able to maintain a lot of their historical buildings. As a result, I think they were able to reconstitute themselves with creative businesses with creative entertainment spaces. And I think these were the positive places that people want go to. The same reason they speak to other people, they speak to me.

Bisnow: How long have you focused solely on Long Beach and why?

Jan Robert van Dijs: I think I really started focusing on Long Beach exclusively about 2002. I was working internationally, but I lived in Long Beach. It just happened that my international contracts ended, and I aligned that with my first adaptive reuse project in Long Beach. I never looked back.


Bisnow: What do you think Long Beach has to offer that other parts of LA County do not?

Jan Robert van Dijs: I think every community has opportunities for doing something different and creative. I think Long Beach is unique in that it really had a fairly severe decline in terms of perception and urban decay. It created this opportunity for a lot of these old, beat up buildings in areas that people really couldn’t envision going into, so it gave me an opportunity in the early part of my career. We jumped around quite a bit just to exploit those opportunities. It’s a lot harder right now, because everyone else has figured it out. When I started in 2001-2002, for the first eight years, not many developers were doing adaptive reuse, we just had one great project after another. It was a pretty exciting time. Right now, everyone is on it, and it’s harder to find these unique opportunities, but they’re still out there. 

Bisnow: What are some projects that excite you right now?

Jan Robert van Dijs: We’re working on the adaptive reuse of the old Yankee Doodle Bar, which was a huge, old bar that was formerly a bowling alley. It's right on the beach in Belmont Shore. It’s a 25k SF adaptive reuse to a really high-end gymnasium. It’s a pretty cool project. We’re working on the adaptive reuse of an old, corporate office building on Ocean Boulevard (the old Verizon Building) into 94 apartments. It’s a really high-end, pretty cool, mid-century modern building. We just finished working a project at 100 Long Beach Blvd, which was the previous police station and, prior to that, was a corporate office building, that we helped convert to a residential tower. We really like mid-century design and mid-century modern, so those two projects are ones we’re having a lot of fun with. The apartment buildings are in the $30M range. We’re probably doing about half a dozen buildings right now that are adaptive reuse buildings. Some are historical buildings, and some are just old buildings. We’re helping to create restaurants, a yoga studio, creative office.


Bisnow: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Jan Robert van Dijs: I like to cycle. I’m a serious cyclist. I run a nonprofit movie theater with my wife, the Art Theatre of Long Beach (2025 East Fourth St). It was a really beat-up old theater, and we restored it, and we operate it as a nonprofit. It’s an art house, we show foreign films and documentaries—kind of smarter films. I also try to hang out with my wife and my daughter.

Hear more from Jan and our other all-star panelists at Bisnow's Future of Long Beach event at 7:30am June 28 at Catalina Landing. Sign up here!