Updated: Apr 19
Adaptive reuse refers to the process of repurposing an existing building for a different use than its original intended purpose. In the context of real estate development, adaptive reuse often involves converting a commercial property, such as an office building, into a residential property, such as multifamily housing.
Converting an office building to multifamily housing involves retrofitting the building to meet the needs and requirements of residential use, such as adding kitchens, bathrooms, and living spaces. Depending on the design of the building and the intended use of the new residential units, this may involve significant renovations, including changes to the building's layout, electrical and plumbing systems, and HVAC systems.
Adaptive reuse can be an attractive option for developers looking to repurpose underutilized or obsolete commercial properties, particularly in areas where there is high demand for housing. It can also offer benefits such as preserving historic or architecturally significant buildings and reducing the environmental impact of new construction.
However, adaptive reuse also presents challenges, such as the cost and complexity of retrofitting the building and complying with local building codes and regulations. Additionally, the suitability of a building for adaptive reuse may depend on factors such as its location, age, and design, which can limit the feasibility and viability of the project.
California is taking steps to make it easier to convert office space to apartments. In 2020, California passed legislation (SB 1383) that streamlines the process for converting certain types of commercial properties, including office buildings, to affordable housing. The law requires local governments to allow these conversions by right, meaning that developers can bypass certain regulatory processes and fees that would otherwise apply.
Additionally, there are other programs and incentives available to encourage the conversion of office space to housing, such as tax credits and financing options. Despite these efforts, however, there are still challenges to converting office space to apartments, particularly in areas where there is high demand for both commercial and residential properties.
Hollywood Western Building was adapted for affordable housing. Converting the 48,000 square feet of office space on the upper floors of the Art Deco building into 79 income-restricted apartments will help to address the shortage of affordable housing in the area. Retaining the existing 10,000 square feet of street-level retail space will also help to support the local economy and create a more vibrant urban environment.
The adaptive reuse of the Hollywood Western Building is a good example of how older commercial buildings can be repurposed to meet the changing needs of a community. In this case, the conversion of the building from office space to affordable housing helps to address the pressing need for affordable housing in Los Angeles, while also preserving a historic building that contributes to the character and charm of the neighborhood.
The adaptive reuse of the San Fernando Building in Downtown Los Angeles is another excellent example of how the adaptive reuse ordinance can be used to repurpose historic buildings for modern use. Built in 1907 by James B. Lankershim, the San Fernando Building was one of the earliest reinforced concrete structures in Los Angeles and played an important role in the city's early development.
In the late 1990s, the building was slated for demolition, but was saved through the efforts of preservationists and developers who recognized its historic and architectural significance. In 2000, the San Fernando Building became the first adaptive reuse housing project developed by Gilmore Associates as part of the creation of the Old Bank District.
The adaptive reuse of the San Fernando Building involved significant renovations to the interior and exterior of the building, including the installation of modern plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems, and the addition of new residential units. The building now contains 38 loft-style apartments, as well as street-level retail space.
By preserving and repurposing the San Fernando Building, the adaptive reuse ordinance helped to promote the revitalization of Downtown Los Angeles, while also preserving a valuable piece of the city's history and architecture. The project demonstrates the potential of adaptive reuse to create unique and vibrant living spaces, while also contributing to the economic and cultural vitality of the surrounding neighborhood.
However, as with any adaptive reuse project, there are likely to be challenges and complexities associated with the conversion process. These may include issues related to zoning, permitting, financing, and construction, as well as ensuring that the new residential units meet the needs of the target population and are integrated effectively into the surrounding community. Nonetheless, the potential benefits of adaptive reuse, such as preserving historic buildings and creating more affordable housing options, make it an attractive option for many developers and communities.