Old commercial buildings and warehouses offer a great opportunity for redevelopment

Here’s why you should give an old building a new life.

You’ve probably noticed that businesses are cropping up in historic buildings all over the nation. The demand for old buildings is rising as business owners are increasingly renovating them for commercial use. Many people love the charm that a historic building has. Here are some additional reasons why old buildings are great candidates for commercial spaces.

Old buildings are often located in popular downtown areas.

For most business types, location really matters. Downtown areas are reviving all across the United States, and people love the walkability, uniqueness, and the historical charm that downtown locations provide. Coffee shops, breweries, retail stores, spas and salons, offices, apartments, and more… all these types of businesses are thriving in downtown areas! Downtown areas also tend to have lots of attractions like museums, theatres, and libraries in addition to the shops and local businesses.

Obviously, there are going to be historical buildings that are not located in a trendy or thriving area, so this doesn’t apply in every case. It always helps to look at the potential. Does the area seem to be in the early stages of revival? If so, this is the best time to buy! On the other hand, if you don’t need a storefront—say, you’re looking for an office building, not a restaurant or retail space—a building that’s a bit out of the way might not be a problem at all.

They are surprisingly energy efficient.

Most people think of energy efficiency as something that started recently, maybe in the 90’s or 2000’s. However, that’s not exactly the case. Old buildings (provided they’re in good condition, of course!) are frequently very energy efficient! The US Department of Energy has found that pre-1920’s buildings rank very well per square foot in terms of energy consumption (Source).

Now, this won’t necessarily apply to every old building, but there’s a reason why many historical commercial buildings are great for energy efficiency. They generally have energy efficiency built into their inherent design. Think about it—they didn’t have the air conditioning or heating systems that we do today, so architects had to think of ways to keep the temperature comfortable. In cold climates, thick walls of brick or plaster were built to keep the heat in. In hot climates, old buildings were designed for maximum ventilation and shade.

You’re saving a piece of history.

Whether you’re a history buff or not, you have to admit that it’s sad when a beautiful old building is left to deteriorate, eventually being demolished. That’s a piece of your local history that you can never get back. Some buildings truly do need to be demolished for a number of reasons, but others are needlessly torn down just because no one wants to make the effort to restore them. It’s hard for many people to see the potential in a run-down building, but the potential is often there!

If you are a history buff, it’s great fun to learn about the building and find out what it’s been used for throughout the years. You might find out some really interesting things about your local area, the business tycoons who built it and turned it into a thriving town, and the colorful characters that inhabited your town’s past. Old buildings tend to have interesting, unique, or beautiful features that are rarely seen in the modern day.

Millennials love historic buildings.

Millennials seem to be flocking toward historical residences and commercial spaces alike. You can blame TV shows where the protagonists live in charming loft apartments with exposed brick walls, high ceilings, unique details, and beautiful original wood floors. Or perhaps Millennials tend to be captivated by the stories that old buildings hold. Twenty and thirty-somethings are the future, and they’re likely already a large part of your target market. Whether you are looking to develop an apartment building or a storefront, you’re probably more likely to attract Millennials if the building is beautiful and full of character rather than modern and sterile in appearance.

Many old commercial buildings have open floor plans.

Open floor plans are currently trendy, especially with the aforementioned Millennials! Plus, they also adapt very well to whatever you want to use the building for. If you want to divide the space up into apartments, offices, or small shops, that’s usually easy to accomplish. And you want a big, wide-open space, you’re already in luck. Plus, you won’t have to worry about removing any load bearing walls in the process. A restaurant or retail space will usually benefit from having a wide-open area.

Existing buildings will usually be ready to go more quickly than new ones.

Even if you can’t snap your fingers and get a fully restored building, the fact remains that there’s already a basic structure there. Even if you have to replace and restore several components of the building, it will probably be much faster than starting totally from scratch and building your space from the ground up. You’ll be able to occupy the building more quickly, so you’ll make a return on your investment even sooner than you would with a new building.

You may be eligible for tax credits when you renovate a historical building.

In many cases, you can increase your investment by taking advantage of both state and federal tax credits for rehabbing an old building. There are usually requirements and guidelines in place. For example, you’ll need to restore it in keeping with its original architectural style and character. But this can pay off big when it comes time to pay your income taxes. The tax credits are not a reduction of your taxable income, but they will go against what you owe in income tax.

If you’re searching for a new commercial space, consider giving new life to an old building, instead of building new. There are so many benefits to be reaped!


  1. You’re absolutely right. Old buildings are actually trending and one major reason why old buildings are in high demand is base on the location. Mostly found in the center of the city where commercial activities takes place mostly. People prefer to use such buildings located in strategic points for their businesses. If you own an old building you just need to get it rehabilitated to attract more interest. That will yield more profit rather than building a new one. Good post.

  2. I would love to renovate an old building to be used as Commercial space, or even as Apartments. I’ve seen just how much demand has increased for this type of space around downtown. I wish I had jumped on something ten years ago before this trend started picking up so much steam