What better way to deliver authenticity than rehabbing an existing structure?
How cool would it be to stay in a hotel that started life in 1911 as one of the nation’s first concrete and steel skyscrapers, and housed the headquarters of a bank – which means there’s a magnificent 10-foot-tall safe behind the lobby desk? That’s the proposition of Houston’s popular Hotel Icon, which is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection.
Millennials may have sparked it, but guests of all ages are seeking out immersive experiences offered by locality. What better way to deliver authenticity than rehabbing an existing structure? Giving a second life to an old commercial building offers opportunities for hotel owners to create unique properties that ignite a sense of place and help break out of the sense of déjà vu that often accompanies the hospitality industry.
Be prepared for anything
It’s a strong appeal, but adaptive reuse can offer as many challenges as rewards. On the one hand, it can offer an entrée into urban areas where there’s no space for new construction, or it’s too expensive. On the other hand, older buildings present costly challenges to bring them up to code.
It becomes a yin and yang equation. One cost may be offset by economic incentives by a city anxious to spark renewal. Which again could be spun to the negative with obstacles caused by changing zoning laws and getting permits to transform a building into something its original designers and builders never imagined.
Tax credits associated with a historic building don’t make it less expensive to purchase. The incentives exist to encourage whoever owns or purchases the building to preserve it. It’s up to the owner, of course, but the incentives may not be worth pursuing based on the overall cost to renovate.
The decision to move ahead with adaptive reuse often launches an expedition of unexpected discoveries. A building erected in the previous century will have its own collection of unrecorded secrets. Even available drawings may be unreliable.
It’s common to encounter unexpected hazardous materials that must be remediated. Those who have repeated the adaptive reuse process advise a 10 to 15 percent addition to budget estimates to allow for inspections and contingencies even before committing.
One way to gain perspective on the potential additional cost of adaptive reuse is to remember that building materials will only continue to grow more expensive over time. You’re starting with a sense of place and environment, and you already have a blueprint to help you plug into the urban fabric.
What you see is all you can build
The appeal of transforming a historic building into a hotel means you’ll have to conform with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. These standards stipulate that distinctive materials, features, and even construction techniques that exemplify craftsmanship must be preserved.
Additions to the structure may be limited or even prohibited so the final design may be contained within the original footprint. Nevertheless, by retaining the majority of a building’s existing structure makes for significant savings on material and construction costs, which can be instead used to repair and restore historic ornamental architectural details throughout.
Old doesn’t mean poor energy efficiency
Projecting operational costs can be a consideration for adaptive reuse projects. Will it be prohibitively expensive to attempt to make an old building energy efficient?
The answer is no. Buildings constructed before the advent of our modern cooling and heating systems had these essential functions built into the architecture itself. Move forward to a building constructed in the 1950s on, and you may not see this inherent energy efficiency.
Regardless of the challenges and potential limitations, adaptive reuse has captured the attention of developers and guests. That latter is looking to make local connections, and it helps that many of these locations are in areas that appeal to both business and leisure travelers. That’s also good news for developers and the hospitality industry. It’s an opportunity to host unique architecture and design and differentiate from other hotels in the market.