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River Roots Redevelopment: Adaptive

You’ve probably heard the term “upcycle”, but what about “adaptive reuse”? If you have ever used Pinterest, you’ve probably seen numerous upcycling projects, but on a larger scale, this concept is called adaptive reuse.

Adaptive reuse is a term common in redevelopment and refers to repurposing a structure for something other than what it was initially intended. This happens often in areas where an industry has come and gone, leaving empty buildings unlikely to ever again return to their original occupants. It also occurs with other types of buildings that have simply ceased to be needed in their intended function. Think of buildings like churches or barns converted to homes or restaurants or defunct train stations turned into hotels or retail spaces.

What are some benefits of this redevelopment strategy? First, adaptive reuse allows existing structural assets to be utilized rather than tearing them down. This is especially beneficial in areas where historic, architectural, or cultural preservation is a priority, as is often the case here in the Oil Region.

Restoring and repurposing these existing buildings also means that the incoming company does not need to construct a new building from scratch. This can reduce costs and speed up development, two important factors every business or company considers when investing in a space. Updating and renovating an existing building can even have a smaller environmental impact than constructing a new building.

This concept is also not limited to conventional buildings. There’s a large trend now in converting shipping containers into homes or office space. Train cars have been turned into bed and breakfasts. Even inactive mines are being converted into everything from storage and office space to recreation destinations, hotels, restaurants, and even farms.

All of this makes adaptive reuse an incredibly useful tool for redevelopment. Here in the Oil Region, we have many sites with historic value and the potential to be used for a new purpose. Adaptive reuse is a way to breathe life into those old buildings. We have many buildings around the area which have already been adapted for a new purpose. Next week, we will look at some specific examples, locally, regionally, and around the world.

As always, if you’d like to chat about this or any redevelopment topics, or if you want to know what’s new in any of the local redevelopment projects, stop in at Divani in Foxburg on Fridays from 1-3 pm. We’ll also be spending some time up at River Roots Community Farm throughout the summer months, so watch the Facebook page for dates.


Rachel Brosnahan is the Community Engagement Coordinator for River Roots Redevelopment. She can be reached by email at

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