1 Adaptive Reuse

The Ferry Building in San Francisco, California, found a second life as a food-oriented marketplace.

This former power plant in St. Louis, Missouri sat vacant for 26 years. Then it was reincarnated with a very different purpose. Photo Credit: uicstl.com

The building’s tall, open interior spaces made it an ideal home for an indoor climbing gym, which opened in the space in 2012. Learn more about the project. Photo Credit: Aaron Bunse for uicstl.com

The High Line, a new public park that opened in 2009, was built on a former elevated railroad line along New York’s Lower West Side.

The former National Biscuit factory complex on 10th Avenue in New York City found new life as offices for technology companies and a ground-floor, food-oriented arcade marketplace.

This 1930s Art Deco service station sat vacant and deteriorating for years, until an enterprising restaurateur re-imagined it. Photo Credit: uicstl.com

The service station then reopened in late 2012 as a wine bar cleverly named for its former life: Olio. Photo Credit: Aaron Bunse for uicstl.com

Adaptive Reuse

Q: What should we do with a building no longer needed for its original purpose?
A: Find a new purpose for it.

Adaptive reuse – the restoration and/or adaptation of a building for a use different than its original purpose —has caught on in urban areas nationwide, giving new life to buildings that once housed factories, warehouses, train stations, and even corner gas stations.

One of the most popular new uses of large, obsolete structures is to reconfigure them as loft apartments. Loft districts in many American cities’ downtowns are bringing people and vitality back to formerly blighted areas.

Other common re-uses include microbreweries, restaurants, marketplaces, and offices. Some developers are getting even more creative and branching out into unexpected new uses such as public parks, climbing gyms, or even hydroponic farms.

Among those actively promoting adaptive reuse are champions of historic preservation. State and local tax incentives have also encouraged developers to restore historic structures, with the goal of building momentum for urban revitalization and economic development.