Even if only half the buildings identified became residential, the city could add up to 12,000 apartments, the analysis found. It would create housing, revitalise struggling corners of the city where offices haven’t recovered from COVID-19, and save emissions from knockdown-rebuilds.
But developer Ross Pelligra – who owns 85 Spring Street, one of the buildings identified in the analysis – said much of its office space had already been leased ahead of its reopening this year following an upgrade. He looked at converting it to residential – and quickly decided against it.
“It sounds great. But you spend a lot of time figuring out how to do it … it’s quicker to just go and build it from scratch,” he said.
Hassell principal Ingrid Bakker said not all the buildings identified would or could be converted, but the research showed what was possible.
She said the analysis was conservative by assuming only half the identified buildings could be retrofitted, but noted that some may not be able to add floors – meaning the total number of apartments could be lower than the “optimistic” 10,000 to 12,000.
Bakker suggested offering a rebate or tax relief for saving embodied carbon in the concrete as an incentive to owners and developers to convert.
Authorities had shown a willingness to give site-specific discretion to make conversions easier under existing planning rules, she…