When does adaptive use make sense? (Almost) always.

The SteelStacks Arts and Cultural Campus in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was created from part of a former mill operated by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. (Photo: ULI)

Urban Land recently posted an excellent interview with industry pros on what they look for when considering development of an existing building for re-use. It’s a solid piece and you should read it here.

The takeaway for me is this (from one of the panelists):

Too often, developers underestimate how much tenants will love an adaptive use project and how much more rent they will get. Developers can also underestimate the durability of the asset. An adapted older building does not go out of style nearly as quickly as a generic new one does. It is more work for the entire development team, because you have to be more creative, and there are more problems to solve, but the product quality ends up being so much more compelling and unique. There are huge returns on that.

That said, and speaking of adaptive reuse, I’m excited about this project near where I live. Formerly the Iron Fireman Building, it’s being re-morphed into a “creative office and industrial space.” It once housed a heating and furnace factory. As a local history nerd and blogger I’m delighted to see buildings like this get a second chance (and life). I’ve passed by this place hundreds of times and never gave it much attention. But, looking at the photo, there are some nice details to it.

Photo: Portland Business Journal

The building features exposed brick, old-growth timber beams, huge windows, wood paneling, hidden closets and stained glass windows. Plans are to renovate the building for modern-day uses while preserving its historic character. The building will be marketed for lease, including an adjacent industrial flex building on a separate parcel from the main structure. Developers are hoping the space will attract light industrial, light manufacturing and “makerspace” tenants.


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