All around the world, adaptive reuse projects are redefining and revitalizing downtown communities by making the most of what is already there.

What is Adaptive Reuse?

Simply put, adaptive reuse involves the redesigning of interior spaces in buildings that have outlived their original purpose in order to better serve the needs of their communities today. It may involve the conversion of a warehouse into a shopping mall, a factory into live/work lofts, an old church into a restaurant, or stately courthouses into museums.
This process of reinvention brings an important use to meet the needs of a new community while preserving a piece of history that would otherwise be lost forever.

Examples of California Adaptive Reuse Projects

It’s happening all over the world, but some recent examples cited by the California Department of Parks Office of Historic Preservation include:

  • The Maydestone building in downtown Sacramento. Originally built in 1912, this Mission Revival style hotel deteriorates for many years until a fire in 2003 left it derelict. It was redeveloped in 2012 into apartments with most of the historic features intact.
  • The Presidio Hospital in San Francisco. Originally built in 1895, adaptive reuse of this building called removed 1950s-era wings and converted the facility into 154 luxury apartments.
  • The Pier 15 conversion in San Francisco. This project converted an industrial pier built in 1931 to house the Exploratorium, now one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations.
  • The Pier 15 conversion in San Francisco. This project converted an industrial pier built in 1931 to house the Exploratorium, now one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations.

In keeping with this trend, the team at Optimum Seismic, Inc. has performed many adaptive reuse projects over the years. These projects include:

  • San Luis Obispo’s historic hotel in downtown, which was converted into a mixed-use project of 48 apartments and retail.
  • A similar mixed use conversion of the five-story Mayfair Hotel in downtown Pomona houses 32 apartments. The first floor contains two retail stores and a restaurant and pub.
    Mayfair Apartments offer modern living in historic setting.

    Mayfair Apartments offer modern living in historic setting.

  • Conversions of multiple surviving majestic Victorian homes into student housing for the University of Southern California.

In the vast majority of these and other adaptive reuse projects, it’s not simply about reusing the space inside the building shell. Rather, these projects involve other upgrades as well, such as seismic retrofits, electrical rewiring, plumbing replacement and other improvements that add significant value to the building.

Adaptive Reuse is an Engine for Economic Development

Adaptive reuse provides a fresh look at and a new start for old spaces, especially those that are struggling or abandoned.

“When buildings are brought back to life through adaptive reuse, they revitalize neighborhoods by preserving our historic architecture, creating new housing and mixed-use opportunities, and increasing public safety,” according to a City of Los Angeles handbook on the topic. “Adaptive reuse enhances economic growth in urban and commercial cores.”

Adaptive reuse can also lead to significant economic growth, a fact that lends itself well to the newly coined phrase, “prosperity through preservation.”

“The old argument that it is more profitable to demolish the old brick box and replace it with a new structure have left the streets of many cities across North America and Europe with abandoned and neglected sites,” Nart Stas wrote in a University of Waterloo report.

The Lincoln Institute recently came out with an analysis describing the negative impacts that dilapidated structures can have on a community:

“Vacant and abandoned properties are a familiar part of the