‘Adaptive reuse’ makes its mark on Long Island (sorta)

Something old, something new: "Adaptive reuse" of older structures is on the rise in places where developable land is scarce, according to a new report.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

“Adaptive reuse” is on the rise, bringing new life to outmoded infrastructure and new hope to struggling regional economies.

That’s the big takeaway from a new “topical report” by Canadian commercial real estate services firm Avison Young, which maintains dozens of satellite offices across the United States and its north-of-the-border home country, including a big one in Melville.

The report, “Adaptive Reuse Projects: What’s Old is New Again,” is basically an opening argument in the case for adaptive reuse – an increasing trend in which creative developers meet localized demand by repurposing older buildings into whatever’s needed most: residential, office, retail or, quite often, some combination thereof.

It’s a strong opening argument. Filled with encouraging facts and figures – 11,000 new residential units in Long Island City built in the last decade, 200 additional projects in the Queens neighborhood’s pipeline, etc. – the report summarizes the global history of adaptive reuse and spotlights a number of recent efforts in different U.S. locations.

It also takes deeper dives into adaptive-reuse success stories in Brooklyn and Queens – and strongly suggests that more easterly Long Island locales might be ripe for similar strategies.

“Adaptive Reuse Projects” takes a “royal” view of Long Island, including Kings and Queens counties in its Island pronouncements. But the report specifically cites a “growing demand for live-work-play lifestyles” that “on Long Island … has triggered the transformation of an area long utilized for industrial, manufacturing and distribution into retail and multi-residential properties.”

Whether its east, west, north or south, “never before has adaptive reuse been so prevalent in both urban and suburban settings,” according to Avison Young, and with developable land at a premium just about everywhere there are people, demand is only projected to grow from here, with population centers in search of new creative solutions.

Not only does adaptive reuse fit the bill, but renovating “functionally or financially obsolete real estate” into newer and better uses often leads to better results than straight-up redevelopment, according to Ted Stratigos, managing director of Avison Young’s Melville office.

Ted Stratigos: Parts of Long Island already enjoy the benefits of adaptive reuse.

And because they most often address a direct need, Stratigos noted, adaptive-reuse efforts are usually well-received by their surrounding communities.

“With this increasing trend, especially in established areas in the United States where vacant and developable land is scarce, many cities and communities welcome these transformations,” Stratigos said Monday. “They usually spread to other buildings and public spaces, often revitalizing an entire area.

“Perhaps the best example of this trend in the New York area is the borough-wide transformation of Brooklyn, which is still going strong,” he added. “These highly attractive projects have area-wide benefits for employees, residents and the entire community.”

The report does not suggest such transformations are easy. A structure’s physical attributes, regional traffic patterns, environmental remediation, LEED qualifications, historical significance, parking requirements, proximity to mass transit and other critical factors – all multiplied by a particular neighborhood’s specific needs – must be considered.

“There are numerous considerations to address,” Stratigos noted.

But when the math works, according to the report, adaptive reuse provides a multitude of benefits for developers, investors, communities and the environment – not to mention a boost for regional economies.

“Adaptive Reuse Projects” trumpets many examples of it working: the $1.5 billion Hallets Point residential development project in Astoria, almost 6.5 million square feet of renovations planned in Jamaica – all worthy examples of what might be next for some distressed Long Island downtowns.

“Adaptive reuse prolongs and improves the usefulness of a building in its surroundings,” Stratigos said. “Renovation of existing structures should always be the first consideration.

“The end result could yield a cohesive blend of old and new.”


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