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Creative Developers Eager To Repurpose Older, Outmoded Buildings

Now is a golden age of adaptive reuse, according to a new report by Avison Young, "Adaptive Use Projects — What's Old Is New Again." 

The Food Hall in Industry City, a major adaptive reuse project in Brooklyn

Cities in the U.S., Canada and many other parts of the world are seeing the successful transformation of older, obsolete structures into creative, viable alternative-use projects.

"In its simplest definition, adaptive reuse is the redevelopment of a functionally, or financially, obsolete real estate property into a newer and better use," the report said. 

"With this increasing trend, especially in established areas in the U.S. where vacant and developable land is scarce, many cities and communities welcome these transformations ... often revitalizing an entire area. Never before has adaptive reuse been so prevalent in both urban and suburban areas."

The report cited New York as a prime example of developers' eagerness for adaptive reuse, especially the transformations in Brooklyn and Queens. The demand for live-work-play lifestyles has triggered the transformation of areas long used for industrial, manufacturing and distribution into retail and multi-residential properties.

In Long Island City, Queens, for instance, more than 11,000 new apartments have been built over the past decade, and more than 23M SF of adaptive-reuse projects are planned. In Astoria, Queens, the $1.5B Hallets Point project includes 4,000 residential units, and plans call for 3.5M SF of additional development.

The report detailed various benefits of adaptive reuse for the overall community, including: 

  • the revitalization of blighted areas;
  • lower impact on the environment due to public transportation and shorter commutes;
  • preservation of a city’s identity and places of cultural and historical significance; and
  • the fact that combined redevelopment costs typically fall below replacement costs in certain markets.

"Adaptive reuse of older projects can revitalize a building, a community and even a city," the report reads. "What was once obsolete will become new and relevant again, answering the needs of today’s businesses and people alike."