Overcoming Obstacles to Urban Redevelopment: Revitalizing our Historic Downtowns

10/26/2017 7:52 AM | Kylie Brown (Administrator)

Recently DCI partnered with CNU to bring Atlanta architect Eric Kronberg from KronbergWall Architects to speak about why certain historic structures don’t get revitalized. It all comes down to CODE. Oftentimes these projects get underway, and one little requirement such as parking, sprinklers, or ramps could bring the whole project down. These little requirements turn out to be not so little anymore.


Downtowns and the historic buildings in them are important “because they already exist, they are economic engines, they allow for incremental development”. They create the place and the value (actual land value, property values, intrinsic values). Historic downtowns value people more than cars and communities more than corporations. We all know that these historic buildings were built long before code regulations making revitalization for modern uses very difficult. Here are some of the biggest (expensive) issues developers run into:

  • Ø  PARKING REQUIREMENTS: You can build a small apartment for the space of two parking spaces. It is also EXTREMELY expensive to build parking forcing projects above budget and making something like affordable housing impossible.
  • Ø  Grandfathering: Typically historic buildings are ‘grandfathered’ into zoning however if you change anything, it has to comply with current codes. This includes changing use and additions.
  • Ø  Sprinklers: The sprinkler requirements are often very expensive depending on the residential/commercial use. The International Existing Building Code is intended to provide alternatives for existing buildings though many jurisdictions haven’t adopted it yet.

Know your codes. If you would like to read more about ADA Requirements head to Eric Kronberg’s blog.

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