Adaptive Reuse in Salt Lake

Written by
Barbara Nasila

Adaptive Reuse in Salt Lake

Written by
Barbara Nasila

Adaptive Reuse in Salt Lake

Written by
Barbara Nasila

What is Adaptive Reuse?

Adaptive reuse is the process of transforming existing and often historic buildings into new developments to fit the current needs of the community. It's a combination of appreciating the richness of history and exploring the possibilities of future ingenuity. As longtime residents of Salt Lake City, we’ve seen multiple adaptive reuse projects transform the city and have been a part of several of these transformations. 

Why Reuse Buildings?

According to the US Green Building Council, adaptive reuse projects aim to “extend the life cycle of existing building stock, conserve resources, reduce waste, and reduce environmental impacts of new buildings as they relate to materials manufacturing and transport.” In short, the waste, energy and materials required in building new buildings is largely reduced in adaptive reuse projects. These projects can also be retrofitted with sustainable building systems that are energy efficient. 

Reusing an existing structure can also integrate the building’s history into the new everyday life of the building. When working with a historical building, stories and experiences are embedded within. These buildings are often a reflection of the socio-cultural life around them. As life around them shifts, it becomes more obvious when buildings do not change with them. Instead of buildings losing relevance, reusing these spaces is an opportunity to breathe new life into them while introducing an adaptive capability that allows these buildings and the cultural experiences of the neighborhood to be reshaped.

Lloyd Architects has a long history with Salt Lake City and beyond, and we seek to pursue these sustainable projects in the community. The very building we work in is an adaptive reuse project. Once a dilapidated but historically relevant home, it has now been  converted into a space that appreciates its role within the context of its downtown location (coincidentally next to another adaptive reuse project, Trolley Square). Preserving the feel of a house makes it better fit the existing typology of single family buildings in the block. The goal is integrating its presence into the neighborhood— not disrupting, but adding. 


What to Keep in Mind When Doing Adaptive Reuse Projects: 

One of Lloyd Architect’s guiding principles of Building from Here emphasizes the value of understanding context and community of the projects we work on. This begins by understanding the history and context our building is in. As we dig deeper into the history, we start to understand its role in the city or neighborhood. Understanding this history allows us as designers to make critical choices about what building elements to keep and what to improve upon. In this process we respect the social-cultural relationships and attachments that the community has with the building, maintaining certain elements to communicate and preserve the story of previous use and occupants.  

David Keith Building

The David Keith building is a prominent mainstreet staple built in 1902, designed by a similarly prominent Salt Lake architect, Frederick Albert. You may recognize several of his other prominent SLC buildings, including the First Methodist Episcopal Church on the corner of 200 S and 200 E. The David Keith building is a proposed retail and office space that preserves within its walls and facade a history reflecting the prosperity and affluence that Utah experienced around its Statehood and the economic prosperity of industrialism. The building has spent more than 100 years with a footprint and impact on the day to day life of the city. Losing this building would be losing a century of history and the important role it has played on the city block. 


Another vital principle in adaptive reuse is to allow space for a building to undergo future transformation. The building needs to have an “adaptive” mindset to push and flow with the changing demands of the community. The building can then adapt without fear of losing relevance in the cityscape and start becoming an active community engagement tool.

Publik Coffee

Publik Coffee is a repurposed 1940s warehouse and printing press. Constructed as a warehouse in the 40s, it was occupied and expanded in the late 1950s by Wheelwright Press before operating for over half a century as Jensen Reprographics, run by Salt Lake locals Niels and Margit Jensen. This semi-industrial commercial use was not a public space but owner Missy Greis saw an opportunity to bring the community together and named the space to fill its new role. Publik, which means community in Dutch, is a great way to describe the impact that Publik coffee has had in the community of Salt Lake.

The building recalls the history of the printing space and acts as a connecting device, not only for the city by bringing new life to an industrial part of town, but also by connecting people to each other through the architecture. Literally cutting through slabs and opening the spaces created connection between different floors and programs within the building.


Granary Campus

We’re excited about the Granary campus, currently under construction and tentatively set to open in Fall 2021. Originally built in 1891, the building has housed a variety of businesses, from Salt Lake Rapid Transit to the Inland Wool company— read more about the history of the building here. The Granary campus will be a mixed-use space for outdoor enthusiasts, and a remarkable example of the building as a catalyst for connectivity and engagement. This space transforms what used to be transit storage buildings into a one-stop shop for everything outdoors. According to Warren Lloyd, this rarely seen mixed-use concept is more of a “mashed use” space, with skate park, climbing gym, hotel rooms, food and beverage, and retail spaces interspersed in one big building with a connective core. The Granary campus is truly a transformative structure that has the potential to redefine the neighborhood by introducing programs reflective of the outdoor culture of Salt Lake City.

Adaptive reuse can take on many shapes and be applied in a variety of ways, purely because every building comes with its own set of unique conditions and histories, serving different roles and touching different lives. There is ample opportunity for ingenuity, creativity and ways to show appreciation for what was, and how it can shape what comes next.



Interested in historic preservation and adaptive reuse? See more of our preservation projects.