It’s not just vacant offices getting the conversion treatment anymore. Former bank buildings and branches around the country are increasingly being converted by developers into housing, co-working space, and a variety of other uses. According to data from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and CBRE, 4,500 bank branches have closed around the U.S. since the pandemic The figure represents a third of the 10,000 branches that have closed since 2010. Faced with steep construction costs for ground-up development, the shuttered branches have proven to be a more attractive option for some developers, given the solid infrastructure already in place.
In Chicago, WeWork is planning to convert the 12-story Bridgeview Bank building on the city’s North Side into its latest co-working location. In another example, development firm Gardner Tanenbaum is converting a 100-year-old Oklahoma City building that formerly housed a bank into a 135-unit apartment building. An August CBRE survey of 71 financial institutions found that half of the respondents said they were planning to shrink their real estate footprints over the next three years. Wells Fargo, one of the largest banks in the country, said it was continuing to reassess its real estate portfolio after closing 267 locations across the U.S. over the last year.
Real estate conversions have generated a lot of buzz recently, due to lingering impacts of the pandemic and shifting workplace models across the country. While much-discussed, office-to-residential conversions don’t always pencil out for a lot of office properties, due to high construction costs, floorplate size, and zoning regulations. Luckily, developers are finding creative ways to repurpose bank branches, a property type that will likely see more vacancies in the coming years.