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How to Encourage Old Building Conversions in Downtown Again

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Pictured: the converted Brockman Building

Adaptive reuse, the gutting and transformation of old buildings into new housing, officially came to DTLA in 1999, kicking off the rebirth that's still going strong today (more than 60 buildings in the neighborhood have been adaptively reused, for a total of 14,000 new units). But turning abandoned old office buildings into gleaming condo towers is not as simple as it was around Y2K, and has become far less common, according to "Learning from Los Angeles," a new report presented at a recent meeting on transit-oriented development. The biggest problem, according to the Downtown News, is the red tape involved, as the '99 adaptive reuse ordinance, which governs these projects, is desperately in need of updates. Most glaring is that the ordinance only applies to the conversion of office buildings into residential buildings--it doesn't cover buildings converted into retail or creative office space, for instance.

But there are also a bunch of other issues hampering any transformation for the roughly 7.7 million square feet of vacant office space in Downtown: technical concerns, financing complications, and sellers raising building prices "beyond what redevelopment budgets allow."

Oh, and our old friend CEQA--the California Environmental Quality Act--adds time and money to reuse projects. Some panelists at the development meeting said redevelopment of preexisting buildings should be exempt from CEQA.
· Adaptive Reuse Isn't Dead, But It Is More Difficult, Study Finds [DN]