Adaptive Reuse

What is Adaptive Reuse?

Adaptive reuse is the process of repurposing buildings for viable new uses and modern functions other than those originally intended to address present-day needs. Adaptive reuse can repurpose vacant and blighted properties into viable housing options for seniors while maintaining community character and reviving historical assets. By repurposing existing buildings, communities can add new units without drastically changing the physical form of the community.

Approaches Met

Develop housing options for seniors to age-in-community

Adaptive reuse can potentially create new housing types better suited for seniors’ changing needs.

Facilitate multigenerational and shared housing

Adaptive reuse can convert large single family dwellings into multi-unit homes, helping to facilitate shared living.

Create a range of price options for housing

Adaptive reuse can result in smaller, more affordable homes.

Make it Happen

A municipality should examine its zoning ordinances, subdivision and land development ordinances, historic resources requirements, and design guidelines to determine how they can encourage adaptive reuse. Zoning regulations can promote adaptive reuse by offering incentives such as a greater range of permitted uses in historic or locally important buildings, bonuses for increased height, relaxed setback and parking requirements, and increased impervious coverage limits. Conversely, restrictive regulations may unwittingly discourage reuse potential. Zoning provisions can incentivize economic feasibility by permitting higher densities, maximizing the use of floor space, and allowing mixed uses in buildings. Municipalities can allow for multiple senior housing units in a single building to assist with conversions to senior living uses.

Adaptive Reuse in Practice

West Chester Borough — Washington Square Professional Offices and Apartments

Washington Square Professional Offices and Apartments in West Chester Borough is an example of a successful adaptive re-use process. The project involved the reuse of the Pierce Elementary School, which was built in 1917 and closed in 1976. The project was initiated by a private entity interested in preservation of older buildings. Market studies suggested the need for apartment and office uses within walking distance to the downtown. Zoning was in place which allowed the school building to be reused. A development plan was created, and the school building was purchased directly from the school district. The project was undertaken using a combination of public and private funds and (federal) rehabilitation tax credits. The design for the new use incorporated historic building features, including much of the school's interior floor plan.

Philadelphia, PA — Wynne Senior Residences

The Wynn Senior Residences repurposed the Wynne Ballroom Theatre into a four-story apartment building for seniors. Additional commercial infill development was constructed on the property. The project added 51 new two-bedroom units.

Exton, PA — Arbor Terrace

Arbor terrace converted a 78,032 square foot former office building into 88 senior housing units, 26 of which are memory care. The projects is part of multiple redevelopment projects at the site including a charter school, daycare, and offices. The project came after a rezoning of the property.

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