ULI Chicago News

ULI Chicago Launches Building Reuse Partnership w/National Trust for Historic Preservation

ULI Chicago and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, as a part of their partnership to promote building reuse in Chicago, organized an initial stakeholder convening in mid-June in Chicago.  Approximately 50 industry experts from a variety of backgrounds including developers, architects, planners, and public sector representatives participated in the meeting and helped identify the most significant barriers to building reuse under four broad categories including technical/design; regulatory; market; and, financial.

The National Trust started the discussion with a presentation on key findings from similar work in other cities, and an initial spatial analysis of age, size and other key attributes of buildings in Chicago.

Interest in building reuse is on the rise as older neighborhoods closer to the City center become increasingly desirable, and there is a greater demand for unique architectural spaces for live, work and play. However, many barriers remain, making it hard and often economically unviable to rehabilitate older buildings, especially in weaker real estate markets on the south and west sides of Chicago.  Meeting attendees discussed many such barriers including:

  • Lack of a neighborhood plan that can help generate a “critical mass” of redevelopment projects in a concentrated area within a neighborhood
  • Securing financing is a challenge for smaller scale, newer developers because rehabilitation projects have more uncertainties and are therefore inherently more risky
  • Significant costs attributable to code requirements. For example, copper pipes are more expensive and susceptible to theft, but the City code does not allow for PVC pipes for most building types
  • Out-of-date zoning regulations, for example, high tech uses benefit from synergistic uses such as restaurants/hotels and training institutes in close proximity, but these uses are restricted in Chicago’s Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMDs)

The attendees agreed that there are opportunities to remove many of these barriers at no or minimal financial cost to government agencies, making it easier and more profitable for private owners and investors to reuse older buildings. The next stakeholder convening focused on potential solutions for overcoming barriers will be held in Fall 2015.

Learn more about ULI Chicago’s Building Reuse Partnership

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