flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
catfish1 - bottom
Currently Reading

Hotel vs. office: Different challenges in commercial to residential conversions

Adaptive Reuse

Hotel vs. office: Different challenges in commercial to residential conversions

Two potential solutions to the housing shortage comes in converting underutilized spaces like hotels and office buildings. However, each conversion type faces unique challenges and should be tackled accordingly.


By Ariel Aufgang, AIA, Principal, Aufgang Architects | March 30, 2024
Modern commercial building at night
Modern commercial building at night

There’s a national housing shortage, both market rate and affordable housing. At the same time there’s a large supply of empty office space and underutilized—and closed—hotels across the country. Owners and developers are increasingly examining the viability of commercial to residential conversions as a solution to both problems.

Hotels and office buildings present distinctly different factors to consider when evaluating the feasibility of potential residential conversion opportunities.

Issues with Hotel-to-Residential Conversions

Hotels have a distinct floorplan compared to office buildings that makes hotel-to-residential conversion more practical and less costly. Systems such as water and waste lines are already in place and can usually be relatively simple to modify them in converting a hotel building to apartments units. As a result, a hotel conversion project can be completed faster and at a lower cost than converting an office building to residential.

Hotel conversions are not without challenges. “While some underutilized hotels are located in city centers, other potential conversion candidates are in less desirable locations next to airports or off major highways far from residential communities—factors that can suppress the value and appeal of residential conversions,” said Chris Walker, Planning and Community Development Project Manager, Aufgang Architects.

These issues can be of less concern in converting hotels to affordable or supportive housing rather than market rate.


RELATED: Massachusetts launches program to spur office-to-residential conversions statewide


Walker was on the Aufgang team that designed the residential conversion of the 36 year old former JFK Airport Hilton Hotel in Queens, the first hotel-to-residential conversion in NYC.

The shuttered 350-key hotel was converted to the new Baisley Pond Park Residences, a 100% affordable, 318-unit multifamily building offering supportive services to low-income and formerly homeless families and individuals. The Baisley Pond Park Residences was developed by Slate Property Group and the nonprofit RiseBoro Community Partnership.

Issues with Office-to-Residential Conversions

Office buildings are usually located in city centers where many people work, with close access to public transportation, increasing their appeal as residential units, thus making them attractive to developers for conversion.

However, office-to-residential conversions often present design challenges that can be costly to address. Office buildings, despite large windows not commonly used in residential design, usually have deep footprints which deprive interior spaces of access to sunlight and outside air. 

This can be overcome through innovative design, such as creating an open core or atrium through the height of the building. Also, elevators, stairways and systems such as water risers are usually centrally located in the cores of office buildings, requiring adding risers and lines to each new apartment unit, which increases conversion costs and lengthens construction time.

About Aufgang Architects
Established in 1971 Aufgang Architects is a certified New York City and New York State Minority Business Enterprise. In the past 22 years the firm has designed and consulted on more than 20 million sf of built space, including over 14,000 units of affordable housing.

Related Stories

Mixed-Use | Apr 13, 2024

Former industrial marina gets adaptive reuse treatment

At its core, adaptive reuse is an active reimagining of the built environment in ways that serve the communities who use it. Successful adaptive reuse uncovers the latent potential in a place and uses it to meet people’s present needs.

Mixed-Use | Apr 9, 2024

A surging master-planned community in Utah gets its own entertainment district

Since its construction began two decades ago, Daybreak, the 4,100-acre master-planned community in South Jordan, Utah, has been a catalyst and model for regional growth. The latest addition is a 200-acre mixed-use entertainment district that will serve as a walkable and bikeable neighborhood within the community, anchored by a minor-league baseball park and a cinema/entertainment complex.

Adaptive Reuse | Apr 5, 2024

McHugh Construction completes restoration of Chicago’s historic Ramova Theatre

Adaptive reuse project turns 1929 cinema into a live performance venue, adds a brewery and a taproom, and revives the Ramova Grill in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood.

Cultural Facilities | Mar 26, 2024

Renovation restores century-old Brooklyn Paramount Theater to its original use

The renovation of the iconic Brooklyn Paramount Theater restored the building to its original purpose as a movie theater and music performance venue. Long Island University had acquired the venue in the 1960s and repurposed it as the school’s basketball court.

Adaptive Reuse | Mar 26, 2024

Adaptive Reuse Scorecard released to help developers assess project viability

Lamar Johnson Collaborative announced the debut of the firm’s Adaptive Reuse Scorecard, a proprietary methodology to quickly analyze the viability of converting buildings to other uses.

Adaptive Reuse | Mar 21, 2024

Massachusetts launches program to spur office-to-residential conversions statewide

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey recently launched a program to help cities across the state identify underused office buildings that are best suited for residential conversions.

Adaptive Reuse | Mar 15, 2024

San Francisco voters approve tax break for office-to-residential conversions

San Francisco voters recently approved a ballot measure to offer tax breaks to developers who convert commercial buildings to residential use. The tax break applies to conversions of up to 5 million sf of commercial space through 2030. 

Sustainability | Mar 13, 2024

Trends to watch shaping the future of ESG

Gensler’s Climate Action & Sustainability Services Leaders Anthony Brower, Juliette Morgan, and Kirsten Ritchie discuss trends shaping the future of environmental, social, and governance (ESG).

Adaptive Reuse | Mar 7, 2024

3 key considerations when converting a warehouse to a laboratory

Does your warehouse facility fit the profile for a successful laboratory conversion that can demand higher rents and lower vacancy rates? Here are three important considerations to factor before proceeding. 

Urban Planning | Feb 5, 2024

Lessons learned from 70 years of building cities

As Sasaki looks back on 70 years of practice, we’re also looking to the future of cities. While we can’t predict what will be, we do know the needs of cities are as diverse as their scale, climate, economy, governance, and culture.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category


Mixed-Use

A surging master-planned community in Utah gets its own entertainment district

Since its construction began two decades ago, Daybreak, the 4,100-acre master-planned community in South Jordan, Utah, has been a catalyst and model for regional growth. The latest addition is a 200-acre mixed-use entertainment district that will serve as a walkable and bikeable neighborhood within the community, anchored by a minor-league baseball park and a cinema/entertainment complex.



halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021