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Thinking Outside the Box: 3 Ways Abandoned Retail is Being Repurposed

Nowadays, it doesn’t take a whole reconstruction project to reinvent a commercial space. As the needs of a community are constantly changing, updating the amenities and resources is necessary to stay relevant.

Since the market’s supply and demand ratio have fallen out of balance, vacant properties are plaguing areas all over the country. Having large plots of unused land not only increases crime rates, but the area’s property values also take a large hit.

The mass amounts of abandoned buildings caused by the nation’s mortgage foreclosure crisis have resulted in a strategic solution for dealing with vacancies. Creative recycling has opened up new possibilities for reinventing spaces, and this directly impacts the commercial real estate world.

Creating a New Tomorrow

With adaptive reuse, an existing building’s purpose is transformed without altering the fundamental structure. On the topic, Saurabh Mahajan, manager at the Deloitte Center for Financial Services, notes “In the future, we could see increased vacancies across property types as existing buildings outlive their utility due to changing occupant preferences, higher costs, and availability of other, better options such as state-of-the-art and environmentally-friendly buildings. Given this scenario, adaptive reuse could effectively be a key factor in the future real estate ecosystem.”

In fact, research suggests that within the next decade 90% of developments are predicted to be repurposings and renovations; which on average are 16% less expensive and 18% quicker than new construction projects. Coupled with the vast environmental benefits of recycling spaces, adaptive reuse is the next step for commercial real estate projects.


Let’s look at some ways old retail spaces are being repurposed in today’s CRE climate.

Turning Warehouses into Breweries and Roasteries

Old warehouses are the perfect structures to become specialty headquarters for beer breweries or coffee roasters. The sturdy and thick construction coupled with the large open spaces works great for fitting in the equipment and processing tools needed to create better brews and freshly roasted coffees.

In many cases, the urban industrial-vibe makes for a great public retail element, such as an in-house cafe or local taphouse. Savannah’s local coffee company, PERC, has a successful coffee bar in the front portion of their warehouse-turned-roastery.

Turning Shopping Centers into Multi-Use Spaces

Large empty shopping centers and strip malls hold the opportunity to become thriving multi-purpose developments. The individual storefronts can be leased out to a multitude of businesses grounded in a similar purpose.

For example, a wellness center can be composed of a yoga studio, gym, spa, tea house, massage center, acupuncturist, and other similar businesses geared towards holistic health. By placing libraries, post offices, and utility services together; a local civic center can be created.

Bringing together these types of synergistic elements establishes a useful destination that better serves the community.

Turning Educational Facilities into Senior Living Communities

Abandoned schools already have the ideal structural shell that is required for an assisted senior living space. Another compatibility is the fact that schools are designed to be compliant with many of the same codes needed for housing seniors. The separated rooms and pre-designated group areas all fall into the general scope of senior living facilities.

Repurposing commercial buildings resurrects old and distressed buildings into fresh, vibrant spaces that benefit communities at large, providing an opportunity for economic growth and increased regional productivity.

What are some exciting ways you’ve seen buildings be repurposed?

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