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Adaptive Reuse: Bringing Life to Dead Spaces

Adaptive Reuse: Bringing Life to Dead Spaces

Parker Ashley

August 15, 2022

As greenfields become less available and more expensive, clients and developers are looking for alternate options for their new spaces. And, as of lately, adaptive reuse has been the answer. Adaptive reuse is ever growing in popularity, especially in urban areas where opportunities to construct new buildings are scarce.


In this post, we will explain adaptive reuse, some advantages, a little bit about the process, and how ms can help with adaptive reuse projects.





Adaptive reuse takes an existing building and repurposes it in a way that was not originally intended. Examples include: turning an old movie theater into a recreation center, transforming a big box retail store into a call center, or even turning old train tracks into a park and walking trail. Adaptive reuse can be used for a wide range of things, including housing, retail, entertainment, dining, and commercial developments.


Projects like those mentioned in this post are happening all over the place, taking old, unused spaces and giving them new life. Aside from general repurposing of an unused space, there are other advantages associated with adaptive reuse.


Advantages include:

  • Increases the property’s market value
  • Improves the built environment, attracting additional investment in the community
  • Takes less energy and resources compared to a ground-up project
  • There are opportunities everywhere, nearly every city has abandoned structures





Similar to the initiation of any project, an adaptive reuse project starts with a client identifying a need for a new building or space. Then, available facilities in the area are identified. Prior to finalizing the real estate transaction, the client will often ask ms consultants to assess the property.


Next, the ms team will complete a full investigation of the structure. This includes inspecting all aspects of the facility and grounds to determine which parts have failed or are nearing their useful life.


Thanks to our 3D scanning and drone technologies, ms can give clients an extremely detailed idea of what risks and opportunities that their facility represents.


The adaptive reuse project then moves forward into the design phase, where our multi-discipline teams examine opportunities to maintain as much of the existing facility as is practical. It is extremely important to balance construction costs and life cycle costs, while executing a design to maximize the positive experience of the facility’s occupants.


There are several trends that have the potential to impact the demand for adaptive reuse.


  1. There’s a high demand for real estate in urban areas. To service densely populated areas, our clients need to maintain an active presence in urban areas. However, the number of areas to construct a new building in an urban environment is limited. Because of this, we see adaptive reuse becoming even more popular than traditional renovation, as adaptive reuse often introduces the opportunity to tell a story, and highlight the character of the structure’s previous life.


  1. Consumers and businesses are more focused on sustainability than ever before. Aged buildings often have a substantial carbon burden. By updating the building and its systems through adaptive reuse, organizations will attempt to gain consumer support by telling the story of the environmental benefits of the project.


  1. Rising interest rates impact on real estate. As the lending becomes more expensive, our clients will continue to favor more cost-effective options. Renovation and adaptive reuse projects are often less expensive upfront than similar ground-up projects.


ms has used adaptive reuse in the transformation of a 106-year-old building into a hotel. The building, located in Youngstown, Ohio, was once a department store and a steel manufacturer. The structure now is home to 125 rooms, a restaurant, and retail spaces. You can read more about it here.


Another project where ms included adaptive reuse is the redevelopment of a 180-year-old industrial campus in Mount Vernon, Ohio. The 47-acre campus was home to a Siemens industrial plant, which relocated part of its operations, leaving vacant buildings. The campus has now been planned to become an industrial park to attract new users.



In addition, another adaptive reuse project that ms has had the privilege to work on is a rail-to-trail project. The reuse of the Great Stone Viaduct is a great example of how an unused space such as a historic viaduct can be given a new life such as a walking trail.


Finally, an adaptive reuse project that ms is proud to be working on is the transformation of a 70,000-square-foot building into a credit card call center. Keep an eye out for a case study from this project once it is completed.




Do you have your eye on a piece of property that you believe would be ideal for adaptive reuse? Are you ready to get the process started? Want to better understand the adaptive reuse process?


Reach out to us at We’d love to hear from you.