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  • Writer's pictureRealFacts Editorial Team

Breathing New Life into Old Spaces: Office Conversions to Residences in Ohio

residential spaces

One of the biggest questions in the commercial real estate market is what will happen to all of the vacant office space that has arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many developers are targeting downtown office buildings for conversion into residences. Mostly vacant office buildings located in central business districts may be seen as Class B or C office space, however they may still have new life as apartment residences. 

According to NAIOP, conversions from office to apartment residences are typically 15% to 20% less expensive than new apartment buildings and the completion times are often faster as well. Some cities and states are offering tax breaks to developers as an incentive for these conversions but with the stipulation that a certain percentage of apartments will be listed at below-market prices to help address the shortage of affordable housing in the economy. The costs of repurposing older buildings are very costly and possibly too expensive, but with an appealing tax credit these projects become possible to finance. 

There are currently five downtown office conversions planned/under construction in Ohio. Here is a look at each of them.

table of Ohio office to apartment conversions

The Bernstein Companies is planning to redevelop the Continental Centre office building in Columbus, Ohio. The Continental Centre office building will be converted into 409 units ranging in size. Continental Centre was purchased in 2021 by The Bernstein Companies for $12 million. The building was constructed in 1973 and was the headquarters for Ohio Bell Southwestern, but saw the last business tenants depart during the pandemic. The rehabilitation project began in 2023 and will cost nearly $108 million. Floors 5 to 26 will be converted into a mix of studio, one, and two-bed apartments except for a portion of the 24th floor. Lower floors will contain commercial space such as retail. There will also be amenities such as a rooftop pool and underground gym. The project received a $10 million tax credit from the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program and is set to finish in Q2 2025. 

Victrix Investments purchased Carew Tower in downtown Cincinnati in 2022 for $18 million with the plans to convert the office space into apartments. The 49-story building was built in 1930 and was added to the register of National Historic Landmarks in 1994. In January 2024, the project received $4.25 million from Ohio’s Transformational Mixed-Use Development Program. Floors 1-3 will remain commercial space while floors 4-44 will be converted into 385 apartment units. Floors 45 & 46 will become the amenity space while floors 47 & 48 have no plans for work. This project will cost roughly $175 million and is scheduled to be completed in late 2025. 

Bluelofts is converting the previous headquarters of Ohio Bell Telephone Co. now known as AT&T Ohio into 367 apartments. The building has been vacant since October 2019 and was purchased by Bluelofts in late 2021 for $36 million. The project is estimated to cost $102 million but has received a $5 million tax credit from the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program and a $15 million federal historic tax credit. Apartments will be constructed on floors 3 to 16 with a small, interior co-working space on each residential floor. Floor 15 will have amenities such as an indoor community room that can be converted into an outdoor pool, hot tub, and patio. The first floor and additional basement space will consist of retail, dining, and entertainment options. Construction started in mid-2022 and is scheduled to finish later this year. 

Model Group has paired up with Cross Street Partners to turn the Centre City building in downtown Dayton into 200 apartments. The building has been vacant since 2012 and is now part of the Dayton Arcade District redevelopment consisting of nine buildings totaling over 500,000 square feet by the same developers. The project is expected to cost $91.9 million which will include 200 mixed-income apartments and also up to 53,000 square feet of retail and office space on the first 3 floors. The project has received an $8 million tax credit from the Transformational Mixed-Use Development Program and was awarded $5 million from the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program. The project is not yet under construction and a timeline for construction has also yet to be released. 

Tony Troppe got approval for $5.3 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits for redevelopment of the Akron Beacon Journal Building. The project is also expected to receive almost $6.4 million from the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program. The building has been vacant since 2019 when the previous tenant, the Akron Times-Press newspaper moved buildings. Plans for the project include 197 new residential units, offices, plus retail and restaurant buildings. The project is estimated to cost slightly over $54 million. All the financing for the project is in place but no construction timeline has been announced. 

It appears that the redevelopment of office space to residential space may be the next big hit in the commercial real estate market. With many vacant office buildings across the country, there are numberless opportunities for investors and developers to team up and reshape the residential market.


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