Adaptive Reuse: New Life for Phoenix

by Dustin Riley

Wrought iron was part of original office building, refurbished and installed as a monument on the building

It’s been said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” The views of a vacant, neglected office building may not conjure up beautiful thoughts, but a close look may show this rundown building to be the perfect place to live. That vision is what allows us to breathe new life into an aging office building through adaptive reuse development, transforming it into a unique apartment community.

Transforming Obsolete Office Buildings into Modern Rental Communities

We first saw the possibilities that adaptive reuse in 2016 when we were developing a new condominium project in Phoenix. Every day, we drove past a vacant office building on 7th Street and Thomas, but the addition of a for-sale sign caught our attention. With a scarcity of land available in the area for new construction and a growing demand for unique rental communities, we began to research the property and learned that its zoning allowed for residential use. That was the beginning of our first adaptive reuse project, The Noble, 15 one-bedroom, loft-style apartments that were built by revitalizing and transforming the 1972 office building into an apartment community. That transformation included preserving and updating unique aspects of the property while at the same time building the apartments to the elevated standards that today’s renters expect. For The Noble, that preservation included keeping the podium-style construction, using it to create a secured entrance and covered parking area. The new aspects of the construction included removing the roof to add a second-story to the loft apartments and a community roof-top deck. It also meant designing the units to compliment the building’s original concrete structure.

Keeping Up the Search

The Noble showed us both the importance and the challenges of adaptive reuse development. Anyone who starts with an existing building will definitely run into more surprises that would not come up with new construction. But from preservation to sustainability, adaptive reuse development is important. At Riley | Smith Development & Construction, we believe there are opportunities for us to give new life to office buildings and fill the gap for much-desired small and mid-size apartment communities. For us, that next opportunity is 500 E. Thomas, an Alfred Beadle-designed office building that will be redeveloped into 26 midcentury-modern apartments.

Dustin Riley is principal of Riley | Smith Development & Construction.  

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