Neighborhoods where the new strategies have been applied have seen home prices rise 31% over four years, compared with a 1% rise in comparable areas, according to a study by Ira Goldstein of the Reinvestment Fund. The initiatives increased home values by $74 million throughout Philadelphia, Goldstein said, and brought in $2.2 million more in transfer tax receipts.
Philadelphia had been spending millions of dollars a year to tear down vacant properties, and it didn’t seem to be making much headway, said Rebecca Swanson, who directs the city’s vacant building strategy. So in 2011, city officials decided to try a strategy they hoped would prevent properties from becoming run down in the first place.
The city utilized software used by the IRS to track down owners of the vacant buildings. Then the city took the owners to a newly created Blight Court. The door and window ordinance also allows the city to attach liens to property owners’ other personal property, including, in some cases, mansions in the suburbs.
“That was the whole point, to catch them early, cite them for doors and windows, and hopefully that incentivizes the owner to come out of the woodwork and do something,” Swanson said.
The Bragg’s Pie Factory building at Grand and 13th avenues was built in 1947. The historical site now houses artist studios and a vegan diner. The Republic
Upward Projects owns multiple adaptive-reuse restaurants in Phoenix, including Postino in central Phoenix and Arcadia, Federal Pizza on Central Avenue north of Camelback Road, and Windsor, also on Central Avenue.
Owner Lauren Bailey said the adaptive-reuse program in Phoenix has been amazing. She said the city understands the additional cost with adaptive reuse and works well with business owners to make the process easier.
For her, the projects are “like an addiction.”
She said she kept finding cool buildings and that drove her to come up with new restaurant ideas. She said the buildings have been “the primary driver of growth” for her company.
She said when doing adaptive-reuse projects “the surprises you find are both a curse and a blessing.”
“What we really have been striving for is to have people come to us with creative ideas for reusing existing buildings in all sorts of different ways,” Steve Gerhardt, senior planner for Long Beach Development Services’ Planning Bureau, told the Business Journal.
Adaptive reuse, as it is to be defined in the new ordinance, is “a construction or remodeling project that reconfigures existing spaces, structures or buildings to accommodate a new use or to accommodate another purpose than what it was originally designed for.”
While the official ordinance has yet to be drawn up by the city attorney, a staff report summarizing it indicates that, in addition to concretely defining adaptive reuse, it will establish a requirement for a site plan review for most adaptive reuse projects. The ordinance will also accommodate the current setback and height of existing buildings as well as their often-limited parking availability.
Salvage and deconstructionists take note. The battle for un-building buildings is going to be won in convincing our municipalities to follow their own laws. It looks like it has already started in Texas.
In Bullock’s view, the court is not substantially complying with 263.152 of the Local Government Code, as that law pertains to the disposition of county salvage or surplus property. Included in his assessment, it could be possible that with another company besides Parker County based Matrix Demolition, the county may not have to pay as much money, or may even have a company pay the county in return for harvesting all of the salvage materials in the building.
“My intent is to make sure that we follow the code when it comes to the disposal of those kinds of properties,” Bullock said.
The onetime Monroe Elementary School has been transformed into a reborn Children’s Museum. Nearby, along Grand Avenue, a surge of development is yielding new destinations out of long-forgotten structures, which are showcased on a self-guided, adaptive-reuse tour sponsored by the Grand Avenue Arts and Small Business District.
Adaptive reuse is also a way to save a unique or historic building that might otherwise be demolished. The practice benefits the environment by conserving natural resources and minimizing the need for new materials.
In Phoenix, city planners established a program in 2008 that encourages adaptive re-use of buildings that are structurally sound but no longer economically viable in their current condition.