Apartment Conversions Pick Up Steam

Adaptive reuse projects have increased, mainly in city centers, following vacancies of office and other non-residential buildings.

November 21, 2022 |

Updated November 21, 2022

2 minute read

Office to apartment conversions have led the way for adaptive reuse projects during the past two years. According to a recent report from RentCafe, the adaptive reuse of office buildings is at an all-time high with 11,000 apartment conversions in two years—77,100 apartments total are currently under conversion, and 8,300 apartments have already made the transfer in 2022 as of July.

Apartment conversions have jumped 25% compared to the two years before the pandemic—27,992 in 2020 and 2021 versus 22,337 from 2018-2019. Meanwhile, new apartment construction only increased 10% during the same period.

Office conversions increased 43% (7,762 vs. 11,090) from 2018-2019 to 2020-2021, and office conversions are 40% of all adaptive reuse projects between 2020-2021. Office to apartment conversions were at 2,702 in 2010-2011.

Many of the conversions are happening in large, urban-dense areas like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago. All three cities witnessed more than 1,000 converted apartments in 2020-2021, with D.C. and Philadelphia at more than 1,500, or each having roughly a 5.5% share of total conversions.

The only other former building types with at least a double-digit share of the conversions were factory (15.5%) and hotel (12.8%), both well shy of the 40% of offices.

Some non-traditional conversions include the recent opening of the Journal Commons apartments, a 141-unit conversion of the redeveloped Milwaukee Journal Sentinel building. Another former newspaper building across Lake Michigan once home to the Grand Haven (Michigan) Tribune is also under construction. The groundbreaking of the Tribune Lofts, a 39-unit project, was earlier this month.

Read more about adaptive reuse and apartment conversions.