GreenTech: Recycled Construction

Where can we find opportunity? That’s the question we’re always asking ourselves, in our quest to bring you information from the green space that is meaningful, and not just fluff. What’s drawn our attention recently… is a doozy, because it has the potential to remake the American landscape. And it’s here where we’ve found newsworthy opportunity, and we’d love to tell you all about it. It’s called adaptive reuse.

But first, some context, because none of this means anything without context. Just recently, we learned that the fed is a bit worried about commercial real estate… namely, all the empty stuff and stuff not making money, and there’s quite a bit. It would seem, from recent minutes, that between foreclosures and empty properties, we may have a problem on our hands soon. We need solutions.

Now, to bring full context… we’ll just put things plainly, and say that America has an affordable housing problem. Namely, it lacks it. We all know it, we all see it, and the officials have documented it… America has a major problem with affordable housing, and unsolved, it’s causing strain on the entire country economically. Estimates tell us we’ll need up to 11 million affordable housing units to rectify the situation, and this is where adaptive reuse comes in.

More Than Urban Renewal

Adaptive reuse is pretty much what it sounds like, but specifically applying to buildings. We basically take a building and reuse it for some purpose other than that which it was intended when constructed. Now, not that long ago, adaptive reuse wasn’t that attractive. But… fast forward, things have changed. All the sudden, over the last couple of years during covid, it’s looking pretty good. It’s a stone that could kill more than two birds.

And, not only could adaptive reuse help solve some of our biggest housing and commercial real estate problems, it’s greener than building new. It stands to reason that, if we aren’t using new resources, there are a chain of resources that are never touched because we never need to source them. We simply reuse. The numbers on carbon in new construction are horrid… for example, a new two-bedroom construction could emit as much as 80 tons.

This isn’t speculation, cities are already putting adaptive reuse into motion… reviving things like dead malls and empty shopping centers with help from recent federal funding and zoning changes. Cities are realizing that… maybe brick-and-mortar foot traffic just isn’t coming back. Working and online shopping trends certainly point that way. So, it makes sense to serve the community, repurpose these building, fix affordable housing, and get some money flowing back through.

Want to watch this happen? Look no further than Redlands, California, where real estate development company Village Partners is redeveloping Redlands Mall into State Street Village… a place that will eventually become a mixed-use, mixed-income pedestrian district. And a place that will help people be able to afford to live, without kicking up all kinds of new carbon.

This over 50 million square feet of retail space has been out of business for about two decades, that’s about to change. It won’t be the only project you’ll see either… get ready to start seeing them, and the new, resulting living spaces, sprouting up all over the country. In California alone, as of July 1st, the approval process for affordable and mixed-income housing on commercial land is being streamlined, paving the way for more malls-to-housing.

Start From The Neighborhood

Adaptive reuse isn’t just for big cities, either… it’s coming to communities, big and not-so-big, everywhere in America… places like North Carolina, where WinnCompanies, a Boston real estate company, recently broke ground on the state’s very first adaptive reuse project. The $35 million project is slated to create 139 affordable apartments in a historic textile mill that has sat unused for far too long.

The mill is called the Osage Mill, and in its heyday, it provided hundreds of honest Americans with jobs to feed their families. Now, thanks to adaptive reuse, it will once again serve the backbone of the community, the people. Becky Smith, Bessemer City, North Carolina’s Mayor, was onsite for the event, about 30 minutes from Charlotte. She noted how much these living spaces are needed, as transplants are spilling in fast.

To complete the project, the company will preserve the building’s exterior. Inside, for folks earning 60% of the median income for the area, there will be 12 three-bedroom apartments, 77 two-bedroom units, and 50 one-bedroom units. Folks in Bessemer City will have much-needed homes, building space is preserved, and the carbon and materials sourcing of a new construction never happens.

Financing for the project is coming from tax-exempt bonds, with Bank of America providing construction and financing… so, we’re not talking about something that could happen later down the line, it’s happening now, and major players are getting involved. We think it’s smart. Keeping heritage helps people thrive, and thriving people mean a thriving economy. Come back next week, we’ll have more from the green tech space.