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New Designs for Old Structures (Adaptive Reuse)

Architectural firms and Developers are settling into a new world of building. With so many vacant properties on the market, builders have had to think wisely about how to repurpose large empty spaces like anchor department stores, old stand alone Sears buildings and even old municipal buildings like libraries and schools into new, viable mixed-use properties.

It’s called adaptive reuse. Adaptive reuse can mean different things to different builders, from repurposing an old J.C. Penny building into a restaurant park to turning shipping containers into luxury homes. At its core, the concept is about repurposing an old building into something new.

Adaptive reuse is not renovation, it differs in many ways but most importantly that not only are buildings transformed, but their new second life is drastically different in purpose from the first life. Factories are converted into offices, warehouses into shopping markets.

One famous examples of adaptive reuse include DC’s old waterfront wharf. The wharf transformed from fish market to high-end hotel, dining and entertainment destination for DC.

Another famed example is NYC’s High-Line Park, turned from old dilapidated railroad tracks into a walking trail through the middle of some of New York’s trendiest neighborhoods.

Adaptive reuse allows cities to take a second look at old spaces, especially those that are abandoned or located along struggling, industrial waterfronts. It can also be a key way to preserve historic spaces and reduce urban sprawl; why build a new office space or hotel in the suburbs when you could breathe new life into an old structure?

Here are a few more examples from around the country:

Foundation Hotel In Detroit:

Built in 1929, as the long-time home of Michigan’s oldest fire department. It’s now a boutique, 100-room hotel.

Wonder Bread Factory DC:

Built in the early 1900s until the 1980s, the building in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood served as a factory for the iconic Wonder Bread brand.

It is now a four-story, loft-style office development for the We Work Company.

The Goat Farm Arts Center:

The facility was originally used to make cotton before being revamped in the World War II to produce ammunition and mortars. It is now a 10-acre performance and event venue, the 10-acre on Atlanta’s West Midtown area.

BHI, has extensive experience repurposing old buildings, "we've been a trailblazer in doing adaptive reuse projects.”

“We love the idea of saving an old building, restoring it and bringing it to life with new use." While we’ve focused on existing projects as of late, we know there are a lot of adaptive reuse properties in development. If you have suggestions you would like us to consider, let us know in the comments or email us at


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