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Vacant office space is being converted into apartments at a record rate. Cincinnati is in the top 10

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Ann Thompson
There's a lot of excitement surrounding the development of the Central Trust/PNC/Fourth and Vine Tower. It is one of six properties projected to be new apartment space in Cincinnati by the end of next year.

COVID-19 has accelerated building reuse. But even before the pandemic, it was a trend because of a shortage of housing stock

Cincinnati is about to get a lot more apartments in the next year thanks to plans to convert vacant office space into housing. The Queen City is No. 7 in the U.S. for the most future conversions.

The new report from RentCafe, a nationwide service for listing rental properties, projects nearly 1,300 apartment units coming online by the end of 2022 and beyond.

This is important during a housing shortage, says Doug Ressler, manager of business intelligence with Yardie Matrix, a sister division of RentCafe. He says building reuse was in high gear before COVID, but the pandemic accelerated it.

He points to millennials and Generation Z as the target renters. “You’ve got a combination of (those) two renters and millennials that are continuing to rent longer durations; and then of course, you have some degree of percentage where the boomers are offloading houses. And so, you see these people moving into rental types of housing units,” he says.

Where are these new future developments in Cincinnati?

RentCafe and Yardie Matrix project three office buildings, one financial building, one factory and a library development will be converted into apartments.

Freeport Row: 1617 Elm at the northwest corner of Liberty and Elm in Over-the-Rhine

Second National Bank: 830 Main Street

Central Trust/PNC/Fourth and Vine Tower: 1 West Fourth Street

Crosley Building: 1333 Arlington Street in Camp Washington

Mercantile Library Building: 414 Walnut Street

Ressler says apartment conversions are easier from office space because it gives renters more amenities, unlike vacant hotels. “The upper middle-class renters, the lifestyle renters, they want a little bit of green space. They want a patio now. They may want to have connected parking to the existing structure.”

Don’t look for building conversions to slow down. Ressler says with more people working from home there will continue to be available office space. Even vacant strip malls are being repurposed. Medical office buildings and urgent cares are going in those places.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.