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Existing building code and vibrant downtowns

My existing community did not elect to adopt the existing building code although we have blocks upon blocks of historically significant buildings in the downtown area as well as throughout the older areas in town. So, that said, we are having difficulty approving the reuse of existing structures because of the IBC and local amendments that were adopted. Does anyone have experience in regards to historically significant/contributing buildings getting alternative compliance for fire suppression, especially if the building is live/work? It's a continuous issue in the current municipality and I'm fairly positive it has been an issue in other places. The purpose isn't to thwart the IBC and IFC for mixed-use buildings, but determine ways in which to offer alternative compliance so redevelopment can occur.