From Vacancy to Vitality


  • Principles and best practices from the National Trust for Historic Preservation's new ReUrbanism initiative, which positions building reuse as a key strategy for sustainable, vibrant cities of the future
  • How to use innovative planning and zoning approaches to add new housing units, jobs, and businesses in economically diverse urban neighborhoods without encouraging demolition and displacement
  • Specific financial and policy solutions to activate vacant upper floors of historic commercial buildings


Many city leaders are seeking ways to add density and provide more housing downtown and in older urban neighborhoods. Can this be accomplished without sacrificing the architectural richness and cultural diversity that makes cities attractive? This course explores a "win-win" solution: reusing the many vacant spaces that exist in even our densest urban environments, from empty upper floors to vacant lots and grayfields. Participants will learn about the National Trust's new ReUrbanism initiative, which seeks to unlock the potential of building reuse. The course shows how land-use regulations can be revised to encourage the conservation and reuse of older structures that do not qualify for designation, such as: reducing parking requirements for existing buildings; adopting reuse ordinances to make conversions to new uses easier; using form-based zoning regulations to reinforce the character of existing intact areas that do not meet the requirements for designation as historic structures or districts; and adopting building codes (or building code chapters) tailored for redevelopment of older structures. Examples from Miami's Little Havana neighborhood and Canal Street in New Orleans highlight how community members and downtown advocates are using innovative planning, zoning, and financing tools to unlock the potential of underused spaces. 

This course qualifies for 1.50 Law CM.