Barkett Realty Takes on Adaptive Reuse

March 10, 2021
front office with a wooden desk and sign hangin on wall saying "Barkett Realty"

As new construction and development throughout Tampa Bay continue to flourish, it’s increasingly important to take our historical architecture and landmarks into account. Curating a city where people will have enough space to grow and play in also means holding onto the stories of our past and unique local culture that keeps St. Pete special. 

With adaptive reuse, we have the opportunity to give back to small businesses, create new local experiences, and preserve our unique city for years to come. Take it from our owner John Barkett, a passionate advocate for adaptive reuse, that saving our past ultimately provides us with new opportunities for the future.  

John’s Background in Adaptive Reuse

After working in commercial and residential real estate in New York City for just under a decade, John lives and breathes adaptive reuse. Working in commercial real estate in the City means you work with what’s in front of you—and an understanding that people expect a certain degree of character, history, and personality in specific neighborhoods.  

Each New York neighborhood has a soul, and buildings have that rich history stored in their walls—this is what attracts visitors and keeps them coming back. Adaptive reuse provides fresh and exciting challenges to developers that need to reinvent or restore a space, especially when new construction is either too costly, too time-consuming, or would have a negative impact on this important architectural personality of a neighborhood.

Coming to the St. Pete market 20 years ago, John saw the spaces that create this type of living history already existed—but they weren’t being utilized, and many had fallen into total disrepair. That’s when the challenging and passion-driven work of adaptive reuse began. 

With a bit more flexibility than the tight spaces and skyscrapers in New York, St. Pete allows developers the opportunity to renovate and innovate in totally unique ways. Adaptive reuse is the beginning of many opportunities for the city of St. Pete and the history left behind to be shared. 

How adaptive reuse supports “shop local”

Navigating the St. Pete real estate market with integrity and empathy is incredibly important when undergoing development, whether it’s new construction or adaptive reuse.  The rich history and small town-like community is what makes St. Pete the special place we know today. Renovating an old building in the community makes people want to visit and learn about the building’s past—in turn supporting the business located inside.

Deeply rooted in our St. Pete culture is love for small business owners and the passion they bring to our neighborhoods. This “shop local” mentality is part of what makes St. Pete special—and our community especially appreciates when local businesses have a chance to thrive in historic, architecturally unique spaces that fit in organically to the cultural landscape of a neighborhood.

“Nine times out of ten, if I offer a business a brand new space that’s a blank concrete box with 20-foot ceilings and a historic space with 13-foot ceilings, exposed brick, and hex tile floors they’re going to take the lower ceilings and historic finishes,” says John. “Business owners and customers alike crave that personality in retail and restaurant spaces, and it becomes part of the overall experience.” 

With ever-increasing concerns about over-gentrification or construction development that outpaces realistic growth, adaptive reuse helps the community find a balance. By renovating and adapting old spaces alongside new construction, we’re able to embrace the “shop local” mentality, support existing small businesses, and encourage new businesses to open.

Case Study: The Barkett Realty Office

Take our downtown office for example. Originally a dive bar and rooming house, the building didn’t hold any specific historical significance—in fact, most people would have knocked it down. However, John saw the potential and was passionate about the soul of the building, its unique architectural features, and its previous lives. There was a serious opportunity for a unique and interesting office space. All that stood in the way was a challenging renovation ahead.

In the end, the renovation was to preserve the brick columns and 100-year old louvered glass, accentuated with modern fixtures and finishes that highlight the character in the historic features. This demonstrates adaptive reuse can be scaled up or down depending on the opportunities an old space offers. When approaching the renovation, John had to ask himself what is the best use of this space and how can the vision of our office be worked into it? 

Adaptive reuse doesn’t have to be an intimidating feat, it can simply be holding onto original features that will give your space character and meaning. 

What we do different

A successful adaptive reuse project begins with an assessment of needs—within the community and the business owners looking to occupy a new space. Barkett Realty’s team of agents bring a level of local expertise like no other, understanding the community’s history and patterns while also working with developers, buyers and business owners to bring their dream spaces to life. 

“A good adaptive reuse partner works to bring a vision to life with what can actually be done, while still maintaining the integrity of the building” said John Barkett. Renovating buildings with the end-user or operator in mind allows a vintage building to mold and adapt appropriately while conserving areas of architectural flair. Aside from designing a building that functions and is efficient, maintaining its authentic style and original features when possible is what will ultimately attract visitors to the space. 

Adaptive reuse is a collective effort and it’s important to keep all of the best interests of the community in mind. Renovating and restoring our buildings is a large part of what keeps St. Pete special—and the city is listening. The St. Pete 2050 Plan, in particular, is a great example of our city coming together to form a collective vision for the future and take note of what’s most important. Adaptive reuse is at the heart of preserving our city for future generations and it’s something we can all be a part of.

There’s always a balance

It’s important to know that sustainable adaptive reuse can’t happen without stable economic growth—which requires an infusion of dollars from new construction developments. When making a change in the community, it's important to assess the local sentiment and specific needs. Sometimes, saving an old warehouse doesn’t make sense and a new building is needed to take its place. 

St. Pete is a landscape that is constantly evolving, and it’s clear that new development is necessary for economic and cultural growth. Yet, as a developer, it is our responsibility to make sure this growth is happening at a sustainable and responsible pace that accounts for the city’s needs and history. At times, the best option for a growing city is to build a new modern office building, but that doesn’t discount the opportunities to preserve something historical somewhere else on the map. 

St. Pete is overflowing with rich local history—and it’s a big reason many individuals from all over choose to move here. So how do we build a city that is liveable and workable but also maintains its historical significance? The key to successfully curating innovative spaces while protecting local history, is to move towards new growth in a sustainable and valuable way. 

Adaptive reuse on the horizon

There is still so much history to be uncovered as the city evolves, and adaptive reuse is the perfect way to get involved. Buildings and landmarks will change as development continues, yet it is what’s preserved that truly matters. 

Contact us today to get your restoration project started and join us in keeping St. Pete the unique place we know and love. 

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