Industrial Trend Watch: Upcycling Industrial Complexes

Photo credit: The Sacramento Bee

In the United States —and throughout the world— many cities are home to vacant or abandoned industrial properties that once stood as symbols of industrial prosperity. No longer useful for their original purpose, they often sit frozen in time. But, these buildings are highly adaptable. They were built to house large-scale machinery and processing systems, thousands of workers, and unparalleled storage. They provide vast spaces —a blank slate waiting for its next adventure.

In many areas, a renaissance of sorts is taking place as developers are turning these once-loved properties into new and exciting commercial spaces. In Sacramento, for example, a developer turned an old Crystal Ice plant into shops, restaurants, and apartments.  

In Philadelphia, the Community Design Collaborative, a volunteer group that promotes revitalization of older, urban neighborhoods, is joining the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. (PIDC) on an 18-month initiative to improve job opportunities and restore underused industrial buildings and land to what they call "a competitive market standing." There, old industrial buildings have been turned into everything from hip breweries and restaurants to trendy housing and office buildings.

And in Atlanta, the Cotton Gin Factory —a 12-building compound— has been transformed into loft apartments, commercial studios, entertainment space, dance studios, classrooms and more.

Repurposing the Past

As a commercial real estate agent or broker helping clients see the potential in these old industrials sites can really pay off. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Sustainability —In the effort of sustainability, it’s in our best interest to try to preserve these industrial buildings rather than building new. Doing so takes sustainability a step further than just considering green building practices like solar integration, etc.

  • Culture —These buildings are unique parts of our communities and when we preserve and repurpose them, we’re protecting that culture. They add a character to the community that new construction simply can’t.  

  • Finding a Bargain —Many investors are finding these industrial properties at great bargains and, even with the construction costs of adapting the building, are seeing great returns.

This is not to say that every industrial conversion project is a win-win. Often, these properties are purchased by investors who look at the undertaking as a labor of love. It’s important for investors to be cautious, do their homework, and feel confident in the particular building, its location, and the support of the community before moving forward. Moreover, as with all commercial property, but especially with these older industrial properties, it’s important to understand any structural or environmental concerns before jumping in.

Whether you’ve always dreamed of adapting an industrial building into apartments, a restaurant, or entertainment space –or simply want to find a great industrial space— the NAI Global network has the experience and expertise to assist.

Connect with one of our partner locations today to get started.