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One out of three office buildings in largest U.S. cities are suitable for residential conversion

Multifamily Housing

One out of three office buildings in largest U.S. cities are suitable for residential conversion

Buildings constructed before 1990 with floor sizes below 15,000 sf considered best options.


By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | May 23, 2023
One out of three office buildings in largest U.S. cities are suitable for residential conversion
Photo: Karl Solano via Pexels

Roughly one in three office buildings in the largest U.S. cities are well suited to be converted to multifamily residential properties, according to a study by global real estate firm Avison Young.

Some 6,206 buildings across 10 U.S. cities present viable opportunities for conversion to residential use. These buildings were built before 1990 with floor sizes below 15,000 sf, making them good candidates for conversion. Such properties are better suited for converting to apartments or condominiums than buildings with larger floor plans that are harder to divide into living spaces.

New York City, the largest U.S. office market at 975 million sf, has the most older buildings available at 1,698, according to Avison Young. Los Angeles is second with 1,212 and Chicago comes in third with 1,030.

The volume of conversions has risen considerably since 2016. A CBRE report last December showed 85 conversions underway this year, double those completed last year. In 2016, the there were 24 conversions.

Converting old office buildings to other uses has gained momentum since the Covid pandemic struck. Office utilization is at an average of 50% across major cities, according to a recent study by security technology firm Kastle Systems.

If that level of use persists, there will be more pressure to convert older offices, which generally operate less sustainably than new properties built to more stringent energy codes, for other purposes.

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