50 Years of Adaptive Reuse in Cleveland Give Life to More Than 5,000 Converted Apartments

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Adaptive reuse focuses on the conversion and repurposing of older buildings, and Cleveland, OH is a city that knows a thing or two about making the most of its old buildings.

A recent RentCafe study showed that, since the 1950s, nearly 2,000 old buildings in the U.S. have been converted into apartments, including around 800 in the last decade alone. What’s more, the trend is at an all-time high — fueled by a need for sustainable housing and paired with a spike in the popularity of converted projects as a way to introduce unique new apartments while celebrating the history of their cities.

The study puts Cleveland in 8th place nationwide for most new apartments created through adaptive reuse projects — 5,356 rental units — and ahead of larger cities like San Francisco, Dallas and Washington, D.C. These apartments are located in 36 repurposed buildings, which places Cleveland 10th nationally and again ahead of big cities like Dallas, Seattle and or Washington, D.C. To find out the original purpose of the 36 buildings in their previous lives in the Ohio city, we turned to Yardi Matrix data.

Adaptive reuse projects on the rise in Cleveland since the 1970s

According to our data, the 1970s marked the beginning of residential adaptive reuse in Cleveland, with 198 new units created by repurposing the old 1924 Commodore Hotel. Since then, projects like this have increased in number. Following the national trend, Cleveland conversions culminated in the 2010s. In fact, out of its 36 adapted buildings, 20 were converted in the last decade alone through projects that introduced a total of 2,778 new apartments to the city.

Photo courtesy of The Residences at Hanna

Beautiful examples include Cleveland’s first-ever steel-frame skyscraper, The Garfield, built all the way back in 1895 as office space and repurposed in 2017 after being left vacant for years. Or The Residences at Hanna, a former office building right outside the Playhouse Square Theater District.

Cleveland’s most recent residential adaptive reuse projects

Photo courtesy of The Athlon

The last few years have brought some of the most interesting conversion projects to the city. From the former department store of Halle Building starting to welcome renters just last year to the historic Mueller Electric Building that was repurposed one year prior, here are the most recent residential conversions in Cleveland:

Top 10 Most Recent Apartment Conversions in Cleveland

NameConversionYear BuiltFormerlyUnits
The Terminal Tower20201930Office Building298
The Athlon20201911Community Center163
Residences at Halle20191908Retail Store122
Innerbelt Lofts20191959Office Building56
The Standard20181924Office Building281
Mueller Lofts20181922Factory51
The Garfield20171895Office Building123
Worthington Yards20171913Warehouse98
Residences at Leader20171913Office Building224
W25 Lofts20171870Factory83

Cleveland’s most popular conversions: ex-office buildings, hotels & warehouses

Nationwide, factory conversions were the most popular, converting into 442 apartment buildings in the last few decades. However, in Cleveland, the most popular structures to repurpose are former office buildings, much like in Pittsburgh, Dallas, New Orleans and Washington, D.C. Specifically, 1,873 new apartments have been created by adapting 13 office buildings, including the Leader Building, which used to house The Cleveland Leader newspaper.

Photo courtesy of Residences at Leader

Hotels like the 1920s Park Lane Villa are Cleveland’s second-most popular building type to turn residential, with 6 former hotels creating 1,171 new apartments. Next up are former warehouses that brought 986 new units through 5 converted structures. And, given that Cleveland has its very own historic Warehouse District, it’s no wonder that former warehouses are a popular choice for conversions.

Check out Cleveland’s converted buildings and what they used to be in a previous life:

Cleveland’s most unusual apartment conversion projects

However, it’s not just vast office spaces, convenient hotel rooms and spacious warehouses that get transformed. Rather, developers across the country often see residential potential in the most unusual of buildings — and Cleveland is no exception. Below, is a list of the city’s most unusual residential conversion projects:

Remember Roadsters, the classic American automobiles? Well, The Creswell was originally built to house around 800 of them. Located in Playhouse Square, one of Cleveland’s coolest neighborhoods, the solid concrete building acted as headquarters to several businesses in the city before being turned into an apartment building.

Today a living community for adults age 55 and older, Saint Luke’s Manor used to be Saint Luke’s Hospital back in the 1920s. The beautiful Georgian Revival building had been left abandoned for a decade before it was offered a second chance.

What makes this waterfront community stand out — besides its amazing location by Lake Erie — is its role in Cleveland’s rich transportation history. Built at the end of the roaring ‘20s as part of the Nicholson Transit Company, the four-story structure used to be a dock, short-term storage facility and distribution point for newspapers as well as new automobiles arriving on vessels from Detroit.

Some of the most popular historic rehabilitation projects in the U.S. are actually based around vintage factories. To that end — and now going by the name of West 25th Street Lofts — Cleveland’s old Jacob Baehr Brewery used to double as the Odd Fellows Building/Masonic Hall in the late 1800s. Then, in the next century, it went through several identities, such as an auto repair shop, office space and a metal shop before transitioning into one of the most desired apartment communities in town.

Cleveland’s oldest buildings to be converted into apartment communities

Photo courtesy of Residences at Halle

But, W25 isn’t the only 1800s gem in Cleveland to be given new life. In fact, the city prides itself on its repurposed structures of bygone eras that still stand today. Among them is  Wagner Awning Building in Tremont neighborhood, a former sewing factory built in 1895 that still showcases its maple wood floors and enormous windows. Check out the oldest buildings in Cleveland that have been transformed into apartment communities:

Top 10 Oldest Buildings Converted in Cleveland

NameYear BuiltConversionFormerlyUnits
Tremont Place Lofts18512003School104
W25 Lofts18702017Factory83
Worthington Square18801996Warehouse53
Perry Payne18881995Office Building93
The Garfield18952017Office Building123
The Wagner Awning 18952016Factory59
The Lofts at Rosetta Center18962013Office Building97
The Schofield Residences19022016Office Building52
The Residences at 66819052010Retail Store236
Residences at Halle19082019Retail Store122

Adaptive reuse gives us the chance to reimagine existing buildings while holding on to their historical significance within a certain community. And, as conversion projects maintain their popularity, renting in Cleveland remains a colorful experience.


RentCafe is a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States. Apartment data was provided by our sister company, Yardi Matrix, a business development and asset management tool for brokers, sponsors, banks and equity sources underwriting investments in the multifamily, office, industrial and self-storage sectors.

Adaptive reuse refers to reusing an existing building for a purpose other than what it was originally intended for. The study is exclusively based on apartment data related to buildings containing 50 or more units. For the purpose of this study, certain building subcategories have been grouped into a general category that encompasses them. For example, manufacturing units, mills, or breweries fall under the Factory category.

All building photos used with expressed permission from the respective property management. RentCafe does not grant the right for property image use.

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the research and graphics presented in this article. When doing so, we ask that you credit our research by linking to RentCafe.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology. For more in-depth, customized data, please contact us at media@rentcafe.com.

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Alexandra is a creative writer and researcher for RentCafe. With a background in e-learning content writing and a passion for knowledge-sharing platforms, she's covered topics from prop-tech to renters insurance to interior design tips. Very familiar with the renter lifestyle herself, Alexandra enjoys researching and writing about renter demographic shifts and residential real estate market trends as much as she loves writing about how to get along with roommates. You can connect with Alexandra via email.

Alexandra’s work includes collaborations with financial and business publications. Her articles have been featured in several national and international online publications, including the New York Times, Barrons, Inman, Forbes, Architectural Digest, Marketwatch, Bisnow, and Curbed. Her educational background includes a B.A. in Japanese and English and an M.A. in Journalism and Cultural Studies.

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