Repurposed buildings trend catching on in Central Florida
The Central Florida population boom has further accelerated a declining housing market, leaving the real estate industry looking for solutions — one of which is the repurposing of old buildings into new homes.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, several Florida counties showed some of the highest population growth in the country for 2022, with Osceola and Lake counties being the highest. Yet the Florida Apartment Association reported that housing development has not kept pace.
An alternative to fill the gap is adaptive reuse, which means converting old, unused commercial buildings into new and affordable homes for working families. A report by Rent Café stated that, currently, around 122,000 rental apartments are undergoing conversion in the U.S., and the trend is catching on in Central Florida.
Last year, Kissimmee stood out as the only city in Florida that repurposed buildings, according to the report, with 648 converted units, landing the city in second place nationally. This year, Orlando is projected to convert more than 1,000 units, while Kissimmee is planning on upwards of 1,300. This will make Central Florida a hotbed for repurposing commercial buildings into housing.
“Almost half of Florida’s future units will be converted in the Orlando area,” Rent Café reported.
This process is nothing new, but the current housing crisis makes Central Florida a solid candidate for the retrofitting of unused spaces.
Doug Ressler, a real estate intelligence manager with Yardi Matrix, said that most conversions come from unused office spaces. However, unlike the national trend, the majority of apartment conversions in Kissimmee came from hotels — 85% of them.
The point, he said, is to make sure devalued properties can be salvaged, while also helping working families looking for affordable homes.
“So, what do you do with that existing structure? You have to really look at ways to make it viable that does provide an alternative to be able to reinvigorate the property, gain revenue from it, fiduciary income, and at the same time provide a community service,” Ressler said.
The former Champions World Resort off West Irlo Bronson Highway near Celebration is one of the hotels under conversion. The property is scheduled to become Champions Village, a residential apartments complex, by the end of August. It will offer 352 rental units ranging from $1,000 to $1,400 per month.
Ressler said adaptive reuse also offers old, industrial spaces a facelift, bringing them up to current safety and environmental codes, as well as reconnecting neglected communities that have been isolated.
“You’re looking at buildings that are possibly 20 to 30 years old being brought up to new ESG guidelines, so that’s a benefit,” he said. “In addition, people are looking to reinvigorate neighborhoods that have lost community involvement because they’re strictly in industrial or commercial areas.”
Lillian Hernández Caraballo is a Report for America corps member.