Whether it is vintage hand-carved crown molding, or a faded advertisement painted along the side of a building, there is something about historic buildings that sets them apart from everything else. I have always had a soft spot for these buildings and their intrinsic worth to the appearance of the city. Because of this, I am excited by the increasing amount of developers taking on projects to transform historic buildings in the heart of Birmingham. Every time I drive through downtown I see new lofts, restaurants, or offices opening up in repurposed buildings. This is becoming increasingly popular not just because of the financial savings and tax incentives, but also because of fringe benefits.
One of the largest fringe benefits is the impact on the community. In most cases, the tenants moving into a historic building are welcomed with open arms by the surrounding community, and represented by the media as a feel good story. In some ways they are viewed as a champion who has swept in to save a landmark from falling prey to neglect. Through this, the tenant is able to show an instant and tangible appreciation for the people it is trying to draw in as clients. This instant bump in appeal can really help take a new or existing company’s publicity to the next level.
Another large benefit is the increased workplace morale of offices in historic buildings. It is hard to explain, but there is something special about going to work in a building that has stood for 50 or more years. A building that may have originally been a streetcar station or a school building was not simply designed to maximize space for cubicles; the unique architecture adds valuable character and encourages a warmer work place that enthuses employees. The benefit is a more excited workforce, where people enjoy their workweek and are more productive.
It is hard to put a quantifiable value on fringe benefits but they certainly play a role when developers seek to renovate historic buildings. These factors can be unique difference-makers in a tenant choosing to move into your space over a competitor’s. At the end of the day, that is the goal of any developer. So with this in mind, I offer my whole-hearted encouragement for companies to continue returning to historic neighborhoods and embrace the history of downtown Birmingham.