Reviving Vacant Buildings: A Tale of Two Cities

A former treasure in Louisville is now nothing more than a storage facility, while a dilapidated office building in Paris has sat empty for months on end. Both of these cities are taking proactive, but wildly different, measures to help the valuable vacant buildings and lots in their jurisdictions find new life. To learn more about each city's potential solution to this global problem, keep reading after the break.

The city of Louisville, Kentucky has become the first to team up with OpportunitySpace, an online resource that makes information about under-valued properties, such as vacant lots and brownfields, readily accessible to citizens and developers interested in potential investment opportunities. The website streamlines the process of accessing relevant information about these properties, such as local market trends, land use parameters, and financial information, which is often difficult to track down.

OpportunitySpace currently lists 3284 different properties in Louisville, which can be filtered by type. Image Courtesy of OpportunitySpace

The company also builds detailed profiles of what they call "legacy properties." One such property is the Louisville Gardens, formerly known as the Jefferson County Armory. Since opening in 1905, the building has hosted college and professional basketball games, speakers like Martin Luther King and Harry Truman, and musical acts such as Louis Armstrong and Elvis Presley. In 1980, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places, but has become all but invisible to the city's residents after remaining vacant for years. Properties such as the Louisville Gardens require unique investors, often from elsewhere in the country, which is why promoting them on an online platform such as OpportunitySpace is useful.

Paris, on the other hand, is taking a radically different approach to revamping its disused and deteriorating buildings. The city is making multiple - rather drastic - moves to create more residences. Starting in January of 2015, for example, landlords will be fined about 20 percent of the property's rental value in the first year of vacancy, 30 percent in the second year, and 40 percent in the third. At the moment, somewhere between six and seven percent of offices spaces are vacant. The city hopes that by imposing fines, landlords will chose to convert their vacant offices spaces into homes, ultimately resulting in an additional 200,000 square meters of living space. 

The collective Jeudi Noir (Black Thursday) protest by taking over a vacant building in the XVIth district of Paris. Image © Flickr CC User looking4poetry

To aid the process, new laws are being put into place to reduce the redevelopment costs of converting. For example, height restrictions have been lowered on the periphery of the city and new homes will no longer require parking spaces. On top of all of this, landlords will get an incentive to rent to financially riskier lower-income tenants in the future. 

Despite the efforts, however, the plan has some potentially dangerous loop-holes. Some landlords might choose to rent out their offices for a reduced fee in order to avoid fines, while others might be forced to sell their properties because they cannot afford to convert them into apartments. However, the city insists that the fines should have the intended effect: ensuring valuable real-estate is not wasted.

Story via CityLab (Link 1, Link 2) and WDRB

About this author
Cite: Jennifer Whelan. "Reviving Vacant Buildings: A Tale of Two Cities" 23 Jul 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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