Monday, October 12, 2009

Vacant Commercial Real Estate Reuse

There is an interesting article from Business Week detailing many creative reuses for our vacant commercial real estate. Some of ideas seem more probable than others (some seem crazy). Here is an outline of some of the highlights, organized from least crazy to most.

1. In the Realm of Possibility

Hydroponics in Auto Plants:

Many auto factories have been left vacant from the recession but may serve more agrarian uses. As Business week observes, “The open bay nature of auto plants and showrooms can provide the space for hydroponic and aquaponic greenhouse operations”.

Community (Kitchen) Gardens:

Turn that unsightly vacant lot into a veritable country landscape! Many old properties were demolished to make room for new properties, only to have the recession hit, forcing the projects to be abandoned. Residents are using the land the way our forefathers did, “Philadelphia has already implemented an urban kitchen garden policy and many other U.S. cities could benefit from one.”

2. Getting Out There

Farms In-Between Freeways:

You know those grass, sometimes tree covered medians? Well instead of dreaming about plowing your 4x4 over them when traffic hits, turn your thoughts to farming! “Freeway interchanges can be transformed into self-sufficient, positive contributors to cities…Converting the un-usable green gaps of the interchange to usable farm land is a win-win for everyone.”

Affordable Housing and Malls:

This one is sort of odd because we really don’t get the rationale behind the proposal. Here is the quote in full:

“Public housing has been decimated by the altruistic construction of mixed-income, mixed-use affordable housing projects throughout the country. Unfortunately these projects have, statistically, merely relocated the poor and working poor to inner ring, dying suburbs, with dying retail and little access to the necessary basic services that were centrally located in the original housing ‘projects’. Might it be possible to use dead malls for the basic services needed by these displaced citizens, and program the proximate houses, many in foreclosure, for true affordable housing, providing both access to basic needs as well as the seeds of a sense of belonging and ownership.

Instead of being placed by “dying suburbs and retail”, affordable housing should be placed in neighborhoods populated with foreclosed houses and near abandoned malls?

3. Crazy

Wind Harvesting Super Tower:

How would you feel about your house or apartment located right next to a wind harvesting super tower? “Erect large urban/suburban wind harvesting super tower units that occupy minimal floor space but can cleanly alleviate a percentage of community energy consumption.” At least there won’t be a bird problem, right?

4. Jack Nicholson Crazy


This is completely serious, someone did suggest the option you are about to hear. “Repurpose empty lots and/or structures to be used as landing stations for a system of small urban commuter airships. Clean transportation and a notable city feature.” Yes airships. Did you know they make a notable city feature? While we wouldn’t be opposed to having them, it seems like this idea belongs in an alternate reality universe. One without the Hindenburg.

In all seriousness, it is quite an interesting article and worth checking out.

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