The office buildings of a bygone era are getting another turn in the spotlight after a several-decades nap, as markets see a shift toward adaptive reuse projects that deliver updated office, multifamily, hospitality, and mixed-use buildings.
Developers and property owners who are willing to do something different have found an interesting niche in markets such as Dallas. They’re recognizing that there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity in taking 50-, 75-, even 100-year-old office buildings and reviving them—whether that’s as office buildings, mixed-use, or a new-use projects. Along the way, these developers play an exciting role in revitalizing downtown areas.
Here are some of the benefits that adaptive reuse projects bring:
Low-occupancy office buildings offer developers a chance to capitalize on existing structures that are often situated in and around an urban core. These sometimes-distressed assets are often available at a good price point.
Additionally, a building’s structure and skin are among a construction project’s highest costs, often accounting for a third of a project’s construction budget. Adaptive reuse projects help mitigate, or even eliminate, this expense, depending on the condition of existing elements and the changes a developer opts to make. Because the structure is already in place, weather delays are largely irrelevant, which saves the project time and money. Those existing elements also make for shorter schedules, resulting in further savings. These more controlled environments also reduce safety concerns when workers aren’t exposed to leading edges of an unfinished structure.
Inherent Systems Advantages
There are also design pluses in adapting existing space. As a standard, office buildings often have a taller floor-to-floor height than newly built multifamily or hospitality projects. This gives developers and design teams flexibility in designing the property’s new use. The number of elevators incorporated in office buildings is also typically greater than those in multifamily or hospitality properties—which adds to the flexibility for repurposing these spaces—and the structural, mechanical, and electrical loading and top-end capacities are usually overdesigned comparatively. Of these, the mechanical systems require the most cost to rework while more inherent savings are realized with structural, skin, plumbing, and electrical scopes of work.
True Mixed Use
As D CEO reported last year, downtown Dallas has seen about 20,000 multifamily units added in the past 25 years. That trend continues, and the growth will be in part due to office towers being redeveloped. In some cases, developers are converting some space to multifamily and retaining and renovating some other office space to truly create a mixed-use building. General contractor Brasfield & Gorrie and developer Todd Interests are repurposing an iconic, I.M. Pei-designed, downtown Dallas office tower, which will include new Class AA office space and luxury residential. Caroline Todd of Todd Interiors is taking the lead on interior design and HKS is serving as architect of record.
Ingenuity and creativity have always been ingrained in the culture of commercial real estate development, design, and construction. It’s encouraging to see how the industry can work to make old things new again, especially in Dallas.
Brasfield & Gorrie Regional Vice President Jason Weeks leads the general contractor’s Dallas office and was the 2022 chairman of the board of TEXO, The Construction Association.