The Cost of Rehabilitation—Priceless

By Nancy Powell


To rehab or not to rehab? That is the question. There has been a considerable volume of demolitions of now dead strip malls that just a few decades back were thriving centers of community. A lot can be said for those who favor demolition over rehabilitation of eye sores, whose goal is to raise property values and bring upscale tenants and businesses into what may have become a ghetto-ized theater. Basically, demolition and reconstruction signifies the potential to bring in beaucoup bucks, just what this economy needs to provide jobs and a nice shopping experience. It also means huge upfront costs, not to mention the political nightmares of zoning laws and whatnot.

Enter the benefits of rehabilitation or adaptive reuse of existing structures. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, it takes 65 years for a newly constructed, energy-efficient building to save on energy costs. Thus, one saves in energy use by rehab, but there are gains to be made in raw materials conservation (no need to continue contributing to landfill volumes), recycling (a widely accepted practice) and reducing pollutants (why release more asbestos or lead into the air?). Forget cost and environmentalism. Consider an area’s historical and cultural significance and the fact that people don’t make things the way they used to (construction materials, architectural aesthetics).

Rehab and revitalization projects have been wholly embraced by Colorado Preservation, Inc., whose mission is to promote “historic preservation in our State by providing information, education, training, expertise, and advocacy.” One of its projects involves restoring the American Legion Hall in Eads so that it may be used as a safe gathering space for the community. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is working to convert the Emerson School in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood into new office space for both its organization and its fellow rehabilitators, Colorado Preservation, Inc. The group plans on adding new, energy efficient changes that will reduce carbon emissions and escalate its pro-environment program.

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