Adaptive reuse development in Raleigh, NC

Formerly a downtown motor lodge, the boutique Longleaf Hotel opened in early 2020 | Photo via @thelongleafhotel

While major development in our city can be a source of some — er — debate, the need for creative solutions around housing and mixed use opportunities is very real. In concepting designs for our city, many developers are implementing adaptive reuse

What is adaptive reuse? In short, this approach maintains the character of historic buildings, while transforming them functionally for modern use. “From a creative placemaking perspective,” says Henry Ward, a partner at local development firm Loden Properties, “the fabric of an interesting urban core is stitched together from both new and old buildings with plenty of green spaces in between.”

The big picture: Examples of adaptive reuse in development around Raleigh include: the Dillon, Raleigh Iron Works, the Junction at Five Points, Gateway Plaza + the Longleaf Hotel.

Why it matters: Proponents of adaptive reuse suggest that this type of development maximizes economic impact while minimizing investment — restoration and renovation requires more human capital and fewer materials than a new build, which creates jobs but reduces the overall material investment in a project. 

In addition, Henry says “adaptive reuse is an important tool in attracting talent to Raleigh, and more specifically, the creative class. This type of development allows projects to be brought to market on a more affordable basis, providing opportunities for occupants that may not otherwise be economically possible in projects that are newly constructed.”

Photo via @thedillonraleigh

Additional benefits: Depending on the location of a project, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding is available either from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or from the NC Department of Commerce. Funds support development reuse in the following areas —

  • the renovation of vacant buildings
  • the renovation or expansion of occupied buildings
  • the renovation, expansion, or construction of healthcare facilities

Worth noting: Within Wake County, only the Town of Holly Springs is eligible for state-issued CDBG funds — project leads located in Raleigh can apply for support directly from HUD.

The bottom line: More and more developers are considering the business of “place-making” when initiating neighborhood projects. Adaptive reuse allows for connection between the past and present, which tells visitors a story about our city.

What’s up next:I’m most excited about the potential for adaptive reuse as part of Dorothea Dix Park,” Henry says. “There are a number of buildings on that campus that can be revitalized with interesting public uses.”

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