The commercial-to-residential conversion boom has already begun

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Salt Lake City is set to see multiple buildings be converted from commercial use to residential in the coming years, and one of the most significant is already leasing out new apartments.

The Colorado-based firm McWhinney began leasing new micro-apartments this week in one of two high-rise towers that previously operated as a hotel.

It marks the beginning of what will surely be a wave of conversions into apartments or condos as real estate investors look at the market for office space and the demand for housing and decide to create the latter.

McWhinney began converting the RL Hotel into what is now called Lattice last year. Lattice contains 184 units of short- and long-term rentals, the company said. Rent starts at $1,225 a month.

The project shows just how quick a conversion can be, in this case a hotel was retrofitted from a hotel into hundreds of residences in just over a year.

The building off West Temple and 600 South is in an area that’s not quite the Granary District, not quite Downtown, and loosely known as the West Temple Gateway. 

Effectively this is an area we’ve called South Downtown, but which others are trying to brand Midtown, or the filler between the urban core and other Salt Lake City neighborhoods.

“Opening the doors on these new micro-units in the Salt Lake City market is an important opportunity for us to help alleviate the city’s growing demand for attainable housing options as we seek to grow our real estate portfolio in Utah,” Krista Sprenger, an executive vice president with McWhinney, said in a statement.

The firm is working on converting another building into residences in what will be a phased opening.

The company said 56 of the 184 units will be fully furnished and available for short- or long-term rentals, mentioning seasonal residents, “digital nomads” and corporate employees.

“The prospect of reutilizing and reimagining an existing building really drew us to this project site, as it aligns perfectly with our sustainability goals,” said Chad O’Connor, senior development manager with McWhinney.

Other conversions on the way

This marks just the first of what will be multiple significant conversions of commercial projects into residential, particularly at a time when demand for office and other commercial space has started to fade.

Building Salt Lake reported in September that Unico planned to convert a former data center into apartment units at 205 E. 200 S.

Hines announced in June it had acquired the South Temple Tower and would convert the struggling office space into a 255-unit luxury apartment building.

The Ritchie Group is also in the process of converting a former suburban-style office complex at 508 E. South Temple into apartments.

BCG Holdings recently received tax credit funding from the state to convert a medical facility at 1060 E. 100 S. in East Central into apartments. That project will bring 88 new apartments that are affordable to people making about 43 percent of the area median income.

As developers face an indefinite period of more employees working from home, it’s likely Salt Lake will see more existing Class B and lower office converted into residential, and possibly for planned Class A office to be converted to residential before it’s built.

Email Taylor Anderson

Editor’s Note: This post was updated to fix the spelling of a name shared by the company.

Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.