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Thread: Contest: what building/use is worst suited for adaptive re-use?

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Contest: what building/use is worst suited for adaptive re-use?

    I once posted a thread about a local church with rather unique architecture that was up for sale and asked who but another church would be interested in re-using it (epilogue: another church bought it). Since that time I have encountered numerous examples of how churches (many of which had distinctive architecture) have been re-used in very clever and innovative ways.

    Churches are but one example of distinctive buildings/land uses. My question for you is what types of buildings/uses tend to be worst suited for re-use due to appearance, function, renovation cost or other factors (that, or stick out like a sore thumb when they are re-used)?


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    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Movie theaters tend to be one of the harder buildings to reuse. One of the old ones near me is actually a thrift store, though its been gutted to the walls but with remnants of the theater ornamentation left to remain.


    Brown Elephant, Andersonville by mister_scantastic, on Flickr


    Brown Elephant, Andersonville by mister_scantastic, on Flickr
    Last edited by jsk1983; 10 Nov 2011 at 10:28 AM. Reason: added photos

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    Cyburbian
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    The one that sticks out in my mind are Sonic Drive-Ins. A good number of them have actually gone out of business around here as well. Drive-ins are such a narrow segment of the fast food industry that they'd be extremely difficult to adapt. The structures tend to be small, there's no inside dining, and some don't even have an actual drive through window. I'd imagine almost any other business would require a larger structure.

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Grain elevators, the iconic symbol of Buffalo, NY:



    These behemoths sit on the Buffalo waterfront like ghosts, too big and too unique in form to really be put to practical use. Maybe they could be retrofitted into offices or apartments, but who would want to work or live in Buffalo's First Ward (never, ever a desirable neighborhood unless you were a 19th century Irish immigrant escaping the squalor of Buffalo's Canal Street neighborhood)?

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    Cyburbian
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    That reminds me of some of the water tower retrofit pictures I've seen. There is no way that those are even financially feasible or practical though. I can sure say I wouldn't want to live in one, even if I could afford it.




  6. #6
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    I agree that fast-food restaurants are among the hardest, mainly due to their proprietary architecture. Often, it's likely cheaper and easier to just tear them down and start over with clean lots.

    Abandoned churches are also very difficult to reuse as anything but churches.

    Perhaps local building codes can be set to require that the proprietary parts of commercial buildings' designs be easily separable from the buildings' base structures in order to make them easier to reuse.

    Also how much of an effect do non-compete clauses in property deeds have on adaptive reuses?

    Mike

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Older branches of chains with very distinctive corporate trade dress/prototype architecture, usually related to the roofline or parapet, are the hardest to reuse. The worst offenders:

    Red Barn. In Buffalo, for some reason, it seems like most end up as florists.



    Taco Bell - there's even a Web site devoted to the awkward reuse of old Taco Bell buildings.



    Pizza Hut



    The independent businesses that move into re-purposed chain stores seem to have little staying power. I think it's because the shape of the building is so strongly identified with the chain that used to be there, the new business located there can't create an identity of their own. They'd do better in a generic strip plaza.

    It's not going to get better. Co-branded uses that mix the trademark rooflines of each chain into one building are aesthetic time bombs waiting to explode in 10 to 20 years. If James Howard Kunstler ever sees fit to write a rant about such monstrosities, it would probably be comprised of a 500-word string of solid profanities, with a bit of punctuation here and there.

    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  8. #8

    Suburban Retail: Low Hanging Fruit!

    There's no "adaptive re-use" or, more specifically, repurposing... all are viscerally "set" thanks to brand-recognition campaigns - and ugly, to boot!

    For collective consideration I offer mid-nineteenth insane asylums: generally, 6-8 foot thick walls, single loaded corriders, with few "modern" amenities - like, say, ductwork. This is sad, because these buildings are spectacular demonstrations of taxpayer largess, meant to inspire. Now they're crumbling ruins.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    I've seen churches repurposed as schools. Some of the older, one-roomers get made into houses. Not all churches are these grand, oversized buildings.
    I've seen some of the old one-room schools turned into houses.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I have to say that the really big big-box stores (the 100,000+ sq ft supercenters and home centers) have to be pretty hard to re-use and a significant burden and eyesore on the community if you can't find a suitable tenant. There are probably only a handful of places that can afford to renovate and re-use a building of such size long-term. And if you either have all of those stores or those stores don't want to come to your community, you're up a creek without a paddle.

    In addition, most of the big chains, like Target, Walmart, Costco, Sam's Club, Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, and Costco have their own standards for store design and unique branding, and these things are so important to them that they are more apt to build new than re-use an old site. Sometimes, a grocery, clothing, or furniture store may come along to fill the space, but most of the time, these buildings are too large and cumbersome for these users.

    In a city near me, their Walmart left a 20-year old building for a new supercenter store they just constructed down the road. In addition, the Lowes store that was constructed here only 4 years ago just vacated, due to over-saturation of the market and low sales. So now the city has been left with two giant blue boxes, and both are pretty undesirable if you ask me. One is too old, and the other is branded too much as a home center. And there are already a Menards and Home Depot in town. What the hell do you do with a home center???
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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner View post
    What the hell do you do with a home center???
    Great question. For some reason my county owns an old HQ (one of the losers of the mega home builders along with Handy Andy/Forest City and Builders Square). I went there for a public meeting. I showed up and thought... WT Heck? Big signs surround it "No Tresspassing Property of Wayne County". Maybe a small convention center if there are hotels nearby?

    I lived in Detroit on the edge of the big boxes. The Ford Family had farmed this land until the late 1990s. Me and Henry were homies from different eras.. go figure. Smaller ones have a better shot. The Circut City became a BigLots, the Office Depot a gym, and the COMPUSA a Kaplan Learning Center. Its going to be interesting to see what happens with the Borders stores, they were generally much nices buildings so I would assume the owners want more rent for them.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian Tom R's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    Grain elevators, the iconic symbol of Buffalo, NY:



    These behemoths sit on the Buffalo waterfront like ghosts, too big and too unique in form to really be put to practical use. Maybe they could be retrofitted into offices or apartments, but who would want to work or live in Buffalo's First Ward (never, ever a desirable neighborhood unless you were a 19th century Irish immigrant escaping the squalor of Buffalo's Canal Street neighborhood)?

    This is Quaker Square in Akron. It was originally a Quaker Oats factory turned into a hotel and now serves as dorms for the U of A.
    WALSTIB

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    These are great submissions so far, but I'm surprised no one has mentioned gas stations yet.

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    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner View post
    What the hell do you do with a home center???
    There's one back home; the Ford dealership next door to it turned it into an expo center. What's actually funny is it became the largest convention center in town since for whatever reason, this city of 500k doesn't have a proper one. Though I've heard the expo center was sold to a church recently. Go figure. Maybe they'll finally build a proper convention center in town now.

    As for gas stations, I see them frequently get turned into Quiznos or used car dealerships.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Buffalo's grain mills, as Linda wrote: the homer crowd in Buffalo firmly believes that they're ripe for adaptive reuse. The problem: unlike mills that have been successfully converted to hotels, apartments and dorms in other cities, the grain mills in Buffalo are located in areas that are still mostly industrial. There may be a few groups of houses here and there in the First Ward, Hydraulics (I refuse to call it the "Larkin District") and Valley areas, but otherwise the area is dominated by heavy industry among brownfields. Grain mills south of the Buffalo River are practically inaccessible, and those north are far off the beaten path of major streets and logical transit routes.



    Reuse of closed Catholic churches in Buffalo are another quandry. The homers generally say they should be mothballed until a time when the surrounding neighborhoods face revitalization, or that the parish should remain open no matter what. The problem: most of those closed churches are on the East Side, where there there's no long-term hope of revitalization or gentrification, much less stabilization, short of a catastrophic reallocation of resources into the area. The local diocese, one of the most conservative in the country, is very particular about their reuse. Small congregations can't afford to repair and maintain them. There's zero demand for new residential units in most neighborhoods where the closed churches are located.



    \



    One hot-button issue among local preservationists is St. Gerard's, a spectacular Italianate church in the Delavan-Bailey neighborhood. D-B was predominantly lower-middle class German and Italian until the late 1980s; today it's about 90% African-American. The massive St. Gerard's Parish was merged into the tiny St. Lawrence Parish, and even then it's still struggling. A parish in Atlanta wants to buy the St. Gerard's sanctuary and move it south. Preservationists are adamantly opposed. Homers have been silent about any alternatives, except suggesting reuse as a museum, and appeals to nostalgia; former D-B residents should worship there instead of their new parishes elsewhere in the city or the suburbs. There's also the usual accusations against former residents, who have been called bigots, disloyal to the city, and so on for leaving the old neighborhood.







    If past history is any indication, if St. Gerard's stays in Buffalo, a few years of an unprotected freeze-thaw cycle will take their toll on the structure, criminals will strip the building of any metal of value, and it will become a rotten shell in a decade, just like Transfiguration or many others. So, what is the alternative? There's no demand for new residential units or office space in the area, no other congregations want or can afford it, no demand for a cultural center or museum, and it's in a neighborhood that is on the verge of becoming Buffalo's next urban prairie.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    These are great submissions so far, but I'm surprised no one has mentioned gas stations yet.
    Gas stations are easily converted to other uses.

    I am surprised that nobody has mentioned outhouses.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Gas stations are easily converted to other uses.

    I am surprised that nobody has mentioned outhouses.
    Or cell towers.

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    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    I don't have a pic, but old Fotomats?

    You planning kids, you'll have to google this.

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post
    I've seen churches repurposed as schools. Some of the older, one-roomers get made into houses. Not all churches are these grand, oversized buildings.
    I've seen some of the old one-room schools turned into houses.
    The main administrative building of my organization is a repurposed church. It now house the fiscal and executive offices as well as a preschool. The big meeting room is the top half of the old sanctuary. It's kind of cool because they left much of the woodwork and timber framing exposed.

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    These are great submissions so far, but I'm surprised no one has mentioned gas stations yet.
    I've seen one turned into a Cash for Gold place. With those places popping up everywhere in the Great Recession, it seems they will open up just about anywhere that is well-located. I even saw a former strip club turned into a Cash for Gold place.

    ---

    Another one I thought of that's hard to repurpose was those old Circuit City buildings that use the distinctive maroon-colored curved box that juts out at an angle from the building. People clearly know it's a former Circuit City, and it's hard to make that go away without spending a ton of money to basically reconstruct a large chunk of the building.

    However, hhgregg has recently entered the Chicago market and bought up a lot of the former buildings. Not sure how many of them were of the distinctive CC design though.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by vmgillen View post
    There's no "adaptive re-use" or, more specifically, repurposing... all are viscerally "set" thanks to brand-recognition campaigns - and ugly, to boot!

    For collective consideration I offer mid-nineteenth insane asylums: generally, 6-8 foot thick walls, single loaded corriders, with few "modern" amenities - like, say, ductwork. This is sad, because these buildings are spectacular demonstrations of taxpayer largess, meant to inspire. Now they're crumbling ruins.
    Look into a thing called urban exploration. It's basically where people 'visit' abandoned buildings like power plants and asylums and document how they appear through photos. It's an amazing hobby and the photos collected shows that those asylums are impressive buildings. I think location and asbestos was the primary reason why they are left to rot rather than being reused though.

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    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner View post
    I've seen one turned into a Cash for Gold place. With those places popping up everywhere in the Great Recession, it seems they will open up just about anywhere that is well-located. I even saw a former strip club turned into a Cash for Gold place.

    ---

    Another one I thought of that's hard to repurpose was those old Circuit City buildings that use the distinctive maroon-colored curved box that juts out at an angle from the building. People clearly know it's a former Circuit City, and it's hard to make that go away without spending a ton of money to basically reconstruct a large chunk of the building.

    However, hhgregg has recently entered the Chicago market and bought up a lot of the former buildings. Not sure how many of them were of the distinctive CC design though.
    The one in Elmwood Park, Illinois turned into a supermarket. Doesn't really look like a Circuit City anymore.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    concrete slab industrial condos

    'course I heard Blackwater/Xe managed to adapt one into a mercenary training facility once.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    These are great submissions so far, but I'm surprised no one has mentioned gas stations yet.
    There was one in your fair city that turned into a bike shop (saw it in the late 70s).

    Here's an antique store.
    http://www.bike4vets.org/images/jour...e/antiques.jpg

  25. #25
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Purely industrial structures (as opposed to buildings) like grain elevators, etc. are certainly the most difficult. Followed closely parking garages and small, small occupied structures like the old photomat booths and drive-through restaurants like Rallys.

    I don't think empty big boxes and such as inherently difficult to reuse/adapt. It's just a big box, literally. The issue for those is more about market than building design.

    I think the medium sized auto-oriented service/restaurant buildings are typically easy to reuse/adapt. Old gas stations with service bays provide easy adaption to retail/office uses. Hence the plethora of reused 1980s style Pizza Huts, Taco Bells, etc. And the new format dual branded buildings that Dan showed are even easier to adapt - just remove the signage and repaint - another nondescript commerical box.

    I would love to turn a small neighorhood church like this one into a cool house.
    Last edited by mendelman; 14 Nov 2011 at 4:40 PM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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