Jun 8, 2024 - News

Inside a Denver school turned apartment building

Stacked column chart shows the annual percentage of U.S. apartment conversions from former schools and churches from 2000 to 2023. The share of school conversions fluctuated over the years, peaking at 13% in 2000 and 11% in 2017. Church conversions remained relatively low, peaking at 3% in 2022. In 2023, the share of apartment conversions was 3% from schools and 0% from churches.
Data: RentCafe; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

The next in-demand apartment could be inside an old Denver school.

The big picture: Former schools accounted for 3% of U.S. apartment conversions in 2023, data shared with Axios shows.

  • Former offices and hotels dominate the national conversion trend, comprising 28% and 36% of newly completed projects, according to a RentCafe analysis.

Why it matters: As cities and developers seek to repurpose empty space into much-needed housing, a mix of building types are on the table.

Zoom in: Denver led school-to-apartment conversions compared to other metros between 2019 and 2023, Rentcafe data shared with Axios show. Colorado ranks among the top states for these conversations.

  • A few years ago, architect and developer Jim Hartman helped transform Fruitdale Elementary in Wheat Ridge into apartments — a portion of which are reserved for affordable housing.

While turning cafeterias and gyms into homes is easier said than done, state and federal historic preservation tax credits can incentivize school flips.

  • School buildings can also offer more of the natural light renters want, compared to offices, developers say.
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