Office Tower Conversions

Today’s question … what would it take to make a former office tower an interesting/hip/cool place to live?

While walking through Downtown Hartford I was once again thinking about how interesting a neighborhood it is becoming. There has been a noticeable change since I moved to town in 2004, with the highlight being numerous projects filling previously underutilized sites with housing.

The former home of UnitedHealthcare overlooking the Connecticut RiverThere are plenty of underutilized sites that remain – many of them are office buildings. What would it take to make an office tower an interesting place to live?

Industrial buildings are frequently converted into loft-style residences. They embrace the exposed structural and mechanical elements, making it their unique style. They restore the heavily used, yet incredibly sturdy, wood floors to add a feeling of age. And they utilize the high ceilings to create interesting lofted spaces.

Is there something inherently “office-y” about an office tower that could be accentuated to create a compelling residential space?

Some of our buildings don’t require much creativity. 777 Main, for example, is a perfect building for a condo/apartment conversion. The footprint of the building is appropriately rectangular for all the main rooms to all have windows. And most of the windows will have terrific views either to the east or to the west. The location is very convenient to everything Downtown, and there is a large attached parking garage. I can easily imagine people wanting to live in that building.

Other buildings are a little more tricky. Many have no defining characteristics that could be accentuated, or marketed, in a residential use. Some have footprints that are more difficult to re-imagine as residential space (interior bedrooms with no windows, anyone?).

How can we work around these challenges?

Maybe we could add a vertical component to the different floor plans. Rather than making the units all on one floor, what if we made two level residences? Have the main living area on the 9th floor with a private staircase up to the bedrooms on the 10th floor … a townhouse-in-the-sky. There are some units like this in Regency Towers on Woodland Street that are interesting. I sometimes see them on Selling New York too.

What else have people seen that make an apartment/condo interesting and might work in an office tower?

3 thoughts on “Office Tower Conversions

  1. We wouldn’t live in a building where windows do not open. This could be a problem in converting high-rise office buildings such as 777 Main. Shorter and older Class C office buildings (such as where I live at the Metropolitan) do have windows that can be opened. Does anyone know about the windows at the Sonesta building?

  2. Good point, Frank, that could be a challenge with the newer buildings and their controlled environments, and especially in buildings with mostly glass exteriors. I guess replacing windows would have to be added to the remediation/conversion budget of the developer.

  3. It would have to go through some kind of exorcism to get the Dilbert vibes out. I could take living in a murder house, but not an “endless pointless committee meeting” home.

Comments are closed.