News

Out with the Old and in with the New Again

Mar 27, 2019

Adaptive re-use projects are nothing new. Developers have been converting vacant downtown office buildings into apartments for decades. The latest trend in adaptive, re-use projects, however, is taking things to a whole new level, turning the trend to less traditional, alternative uses of former industrial properties.

City planners, architects and entrepreneurial developers have turned their eyes to incorporating non-traditional experiential uses to revamp run down industrial buildings, bringing creative, unique and more current cultural uses to structures that have outlived their useful life.

The experience is actually created by the activation of these outdated facilities for activities that draw people to participate in countless activities, i.e., the experience. Activity centers that draw large numbers of people span from the traditional (indoor sport courts and fields) to the less traditional (X-treme indoor activities, such as BMX racing, drone racing, skatepark, karting tracks, e-sports arenas and maker spaces). The possibilities are virtually limitless.

A Change Around the World

Look at any former industrialized city across the globe and you will see examples of experiential concepts replacing defunct warehouses and manufacturing facilities. China has turned many former industrial-use sites into museums, cultural centers, office space and co-working centers. In the Netherlands, a dilapidated 13th Century Church was converted into arguably the most beautiful bookstore you will ever step inside.

Stateside, we’ve seen grain silos transformed into rock climbing gyms and warehouses into indoor athletic and training facilities. Maker spaces and tool libraries are helping to revitalize stagnant downtown neighborhoods with an industrial past. Artist’s lofts, performance theaters, microbreweries and retail galleries are among other exciting examples of experiential uses.

Two particularly exciting adaptive redevelopment projects include a former Panasonic warehouse in Atlanta that was converted into a middle school and historic aircraft hangars in Brooklyn that was transformed into a multi-sport recreation complex in partnership with the National Park Service. Just imagine thousands of students in classrooms like those in Atlanta can now enjoy a wonderful learning environment with computer labs for each grade and a large media center.

Benefits of Adaptive Industrial for Experiential Use

Dilapidated industrial properties are often available at below market values, as many sit vacant and largely unused for months if not for many years. Industrial properties also have more flexible zoning and often permit uses that light retail, office and residential zones will not allow.

Warehouses can often be built from the ground up more quickly and less expensively than other commercial building types, and with their open floor plans, less demanding finishes and high ceilings, they are easier to modify, including adding entirely new floors. Additionally, transforming industrial space gels well with the trend of having an open work environment, making these popular destinations for housing creative, digital and media-focused businesses.

Many local and state governments want to encourage adaptive industrial redevelopment, often in the form of offering economic development incentives to developers interested in revitalizing their towns, cities and state. example, in 2018, Governor Hogan of Maryland announced more than $9 million in tax credits to restore historic structures to incentivize adaptive redevelopment.

Challenges of Industrial Complexes

Unfortunately, many industrial sites, particularly those built before 1980, have their fair share of environmental issues. There could be industrial waste or contaminated soil. Any building constructed before 1978 may have lead paint. Asbestos is another concern.

Additionally, heating, plumbing and electrical infrastructures may need to be brought up to code or replaced entirely. Sometimes, location is an issue. If the industrial site is in a big, congested city such as New York City, Chicago or San Francisco, renovation can present such  challenges, however many large industrial sites are located outside of major metropolitan areas.

Identifying prospective tenants may pose additional challenges if your location is not convenient to major transportation arteries or public transportation. If your development is near other operational industrial complexes, noise can be an issue as well as the general appearance of the area. Green space may also be limited. If other projects aren’t happening and you’re the only one looking to change the area, it can take time before there’s traction to revitalize the neighborhood.

There’s No Need to Go it Alone

Even with the known challenges of redeveloping obsolete industrial properties, alternative, less traditional uses and activities are the wave of the future. Just imagine all of today’s vacant monstrosities of our industrial past being adaptively re-occupied by uses that allow people to enjoy many new experiences and activities that modern day life has to offer.

 TD&A is expert at brokering industrial, office and retail properties for traditional as well as non-traditional use. As part of a collaborative process, we assist our clients by identifying properties and providing expert consultation through every phase of your business plan, from conceiving a negotiation strategy and determining the ‘right’ property value for our clients to tapping into our strong economic development ties to help our clients achieve a positive, defined economic outcome.  

To collaborate with TD&A, call 410-435-4004 and we’ll be delighted to discuss your needs.