Reimagining Spaces: Urban Reprogramming of Commercial Spaces


Among the many economic impacts of today's pandemic, the commercial sector will experience long term shifts in how its spaces are used. Increased vacancies and dwindling revenue already loomed large for retail spaces prior to the pandemic, the impact of which will likely increase to many forms of commercial space, including office, retail and restaurants. Given these market conditions, experts anticipate that 90% of real estate development in the next decade will focus on the renovation and reuse of existing structures. As our latest design report shows, Omgivning's focus on the creative reuse of commercial spaces allows us to help clients navigate this unprecedented landscape with innovative and cost-effective solutions.

There is profound socioeconomic and cultural value in reusing our existing building stock. As Jane Jacobs wrote, "Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them." Meanwhile, the environmental value of reuse was famously summarized by architect Carl Elefante, who wrote "the greenest building is the one that is already built." Indeed, according to a report by Preservation Green Lab, " takes 10 to 80 years for a new building that is 30 percent more efficient than an average performing existing building to overcome, through efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts related to the construction process."

To understand the future of urban spaces, we analyzed existing conditions at specific sites in Los Angeles. Through these studies, we have developed five concepts that highlight building types or space types that, even prior to the pandemic, were underutilized. Our vision incorporates new operational models along with recommendations for their adaptive reuse.

Concept 1: Reuse of Strip Mall Shopping Centers
There are approximately 675 strip mall shopping centers in the city of Los Angeles. With commercial vacancies already increasing and likely to stay at or near record levels, what options exist for bringing new life to these buildings?

Concept 2: Reuse of Big Box Retail
As online retail and next-day shipping become the default, more big box retail operators are leaving the shells of these retail spaces vacant. How can these large volumes and any adjacent parking areas be redeveloped to maximize their potential?

Concept 3: Reuse of Light Industrial
Just outside downtown Los Angeles, there are large districts with industrial and warehouse buildings that sit vacant or underutilized, lacking any vision for their reuse. Given the richness of their character, contribution to their respective neighborhood, and the scale of their potential contribution to our city’s future, how can we reinvigorate these buildings?

Concept 4: Urban Ground Floor Commercial Space
In downtown Los Angeles, new buildings are expected or even required to have ground floor commercial space. While the residential or office uses above typically thrive, the success of the ground floor is less certain. What are some creative strategies for filling these empty spaces and strengthening connections to the public realm?

Concept 5: Urban Revitalization
Through the City of Los Angeles’ LA Alfresco Dining Initiative, restaurants have the potential to open and serve customers at partial capacity through outdoor dining areas, or on adjacent public sidewalks. How can we use the design implications of this new initiative to connect our neighborhood restaurants and bars?

Amid the upheaval from today's pandemic, we see one clear implication for our industry: space design is entering a whole new era, and there's no going back. Since March 2020, Omgivning has been exploring the potential of this design evolution and reimagining three space types in particular: Workplace, Commercial and Multifamily.

Click here for our complete Urban Reprogramming commercial design report.

Click here for our complete Reimagining the Workplace design report.

Adaptive Reuse, Design