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Converting Commercial Properties: Repurposing Vacant Real Estate to Create Value and Meet Market Demands

Recording of a 90-minute premium CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Thursday, January 28, 2021

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will provide real estate counsel with guidance on the legal issues facing repurposing commercial real estate that has become vacant due to the severe economic downturn. The panel will address issues related to petitioning zoning changes, removing holdover tenants, and increasing flexibility of use for commercial spaces.


Property owners have historically addressed struggling properties by either (1) finding a new tenant/buyer or (2) investing significant capital in upgrading the property. However, a third option, repurposing and/or redeveloping the property for a different use, is an increasingly viable alternative in keeping with recent market trends.

While the 2020 economic downturn accelerated the problem, large commercial spaces have been emptying at high rates due to major retail bankruptcies and office closures. As shopping malls, retail centers, and office complexes become vacant, property owners and communities must determine how to utilize this space.

Some jurisdictions have guiding policies for the conversion of retail or office space, and many localities now advise that zoning boards must "provide consistently applied administrative guidance on key areas of consideration when reviewing conversion proposals" and take into account the requested conversion's potential long term impact on neighborhoods. Other considerations are whether the requested repurposing is a product of "short-term market fluctuations" or resulting from a long term systemic shift in needs and feasibility.

Although repurposing may significantly increase a property's value, it often involves significant zoning approvals to complete. More municipalities are working with developers to reposition properties in order to reuse properties that would otherwise be vacant eyesores.

Additionally, counsel may have to deal with straggling tenants in near-empty properties and address the legal issues involved in maximizing the use of a struggling complex.

Listen as our expert panel of real estate attorneys advises on working with the stakeholders, local government, and communities themselves to turn empty properties into functioning opportunities for all. The panel will address zoning issues, compliance and conversion issues, and removal of holdover tenants as methods for effectuating this goal.



  1. Petitioning zoning changes
  2. Removing holdover/leftover tenants
  3. Repurposing issues
    1. Office space
    2. Retail


The panel will review these and other relevant topics:

  • What are best practices for dealing with a struggling or vacant property?
  • How can counsel work with zoning boards to amend the use of existing properties?
  • What are best practices for handling community push back on changed use of properties?
  • How can counsel address holdover tenants in near-vacant properties to maximize future use?


Forshner, Gary
Gary S. Forshner

Law Offices of Gary S. Forshner

Mr. Forshner represents real estate developers, property owners and other business clients in matters related to land...  |  Read More

Lawlor, Deborah
Deborah A. Lawlor, FAICP, PP
Discipline Leader, Planning Services
Maser Consulting

Ms. Lawlor has over 40 years of experience specializing in land use and environmental planning. She is Discipline...  |  Read More

Scheffler, Todd
Todd Scheffler

Vice President, Retail Repositioning
Colliers International

Mr. Scheffler brings over 35 years experience in all areas of real estate to Colliers International but his expertise...  |  Read More

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