Baltimore City ranks 4th in the nation for office-to-residential conversions, according to a report by RentCafe.
Baltimore City is a national leader in converting vacant office space into residential units. According to RentCafe’s annual Adaptive Reuse Report, the Charm City was behind only Los Angeles, CA; Kissimmee, FL; and Alexandria, VA – generating 395 new residential units through adaptive reuse. When accounting for the conversion of just vacant office space, Baltimore ranked even higher coming in third place. Adaptive reuse has shown to be a proven strategy for revitalizing many rust belt jurisdictions’ urban cores and a powerful tool in combating the current housing crisis.
What is Adaptive Reuse?
According to Merriam-Webster, Adaptive Reuse is “the renovation and reuse of pre-existing structures (such as warehouses) for new purposes.” For many jurisdictions, this means taking areas that were once intended for one function (industrial or commercial) and converting them to another (often mixed-use or residential).
There are several benefits to adaptive reuse over new construction. Often converted buildings are located in areas with pre-existing infrastructure and already planned for density. Depending on the area, some projects may qualify for tax inducements, grants, and other incentives making the investment more attractive. From a climate perspective, reuse projects have been shown to have a much more reduced environmental impact compared to new construction.
Reuse projects do come with a handful of possible challenges. The primary issue is working in a space not intended for the new purpose. This often means serious investment in plumbing, electricity metering, ADA upgrades, and other structural challenges. Unlike new construction, reuse developers need to be much more flexible since their working in a more constrained environment. The biggest debate and drawback to conversion to residential is around sunlight; most people want some access to sunlight in their homes but in newer office conversions ensuring that access can be challenging, if not impossible.
Looking Ahead – Still a National Leader
The report also projects which cities will be prime targets for adaptive reuse into the future. Baltimore City should continue to be a national leader, ranking 15th nationally with estimated 1410 units converted. The city is projected to lose its top 10 rank due to larger jurisdictions such as New York City, Philadelphia, and others becoming more aggressive in supporting adaptive reuse. But even with the nation’s largest cities becoming more active in adaptive reuse, Baltimore City will remain a national leader in this space.