Adaptive Re-use Bylaws and Ordinances

Adaptive Reuse Zoning is adopted to provide new life for historic vacant or underutilized structures.

Generally the existing zoning bylaw is amended to expand the allowed uses or allowed densities in certain districts in order to provide new opportunities for redevelopment.  For example, underutilized or vacant mill buildings, which are generally located in industrial zones, might be rezoned for commercial, residential or mixed uses. Vacant schools or churches could be rezoned to allow a greater density than would be allowed in their current residential zoning district.  These zoning amendments provide opportunity for the reuse of buildings for which the original use is no longer economically viable. Adaptive Reuse Zoning has a variety of names including Mill Conversion bylaws, Mixed Use Mill Overlay Districts or Planned Reuse bylaws.

Adaptive Reuse Zoning is often adopted when there are vacant or underutilized buildings that require

new uses.  The strategy may be identified in a comprehensive planning process.  Before adopting such a bylaw, the area should be studied to determine best uses.  The bylaw can provide flexibility in use, dimensional and parking requirements to provide the Planning Board with appropriate tools when considering a reuse proposal.  The goal is to assure that new uses are compatible with nearby existing uses, and not held to unrealistic parking or lot size requirements.  To be most effective for adaptive reuse of historic buildings, the bylaw should contain site plan review or design guidelines that encourage the preservation of character-defining features and materials.

Additional information about adaptive re-use bylaws and ordinances can be obtained from the Massachusetts Historical Commission.