100 Years: Boston is the 3rd Most Popular US City for Office Adaptive Reuse

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Photo: CommercialSearch

BOSTON–In a century, Boston has emerged as the third most popular US city for office adaptive reuse, according to the latest study from CommercialSearch on office adaptive reuse. To be exact, 4,283 offices were created through adaptive reuse across the country in the past 100 years.

Here are some key takeaways from the CommercialSearch study:

  • Boston office space grew by 18.9 million square feet or 161 buildings through adaptive reuse over the past century. This puts the city in 3rd place in this respect, surpassed only by New York and Los Angeles.
  • Massachusetts is the third state, after California and New York, in terms of office adaptive reuse, with 363 buildings totaling 36.7 million square feet converted to office space.
  • Overall, most of the office buildings created through adaptive reuse in the past 100 years were converted from industrial space (61%), followed by retail (19%) and residential (5%).
  • 90% of conversions happened in the past 40 years, one-fifth in the 1980s—the period when office adaptive reuse took off—and 53% in the past two decades.

Top 25 Cities by Buildings Adaptively Reused for Office (Source: CommercialSearch)

Adaptive reuse isn’t new, even for office real estate. But it really didn’t take off until the 1980s. The Industrial Revolution set the stage for large manufacturers that grew even larger with the expansion of railroad networks across the country. Steel and shipbuilding became even bigger business. Meanwhile, technological advancements in radio and electronics — in combination with the consumer-centric boom that occurred after World War II — added gasoline to the industrial fire throughout the nation, according to CommercialSearch.

Of all the conversions to office space in the last 100 years, only 3% took place in the first five decades of the 20th century. The 1960s brought with it slightly more adaptive reuses — accounting for 2% of the total — while 5% of them took place in the 70s, CommercialSearch study said.

A commercial construction boom coincided with outsourcing and offshoring, which began to draw manufacturing and assembly to other countries. As a result, the need for manufacturing facilities in the United States began to decline and, by the 1980s, the decline was unmistakable. One-fifth of all office conversions in the last century were in the 80’s, representing 4.7 million square feet across 635 buildings.

In fact, 90% of all buildings that have been converted to office buildings were only completed in the last 40 years. Now, not only can industrial buildings be retrofitted into offices rather quickly, but many are also near important amenities for workers, such as major traffic corridors near the city. They can also be less expensive to acquire, as well.

What’s more, the converted warehouse office building trend only hastened further with the advent of creative and coworking spaces. Not only was it more economical to convert a vacant building, but now, it was cool, too.

To read the full CommercialSearch report, please click here.