Recent years have not been kind to retail. The retail landscape is pocked with vacant stores occupied by the likes of legacy companies such as Sears and JCPenney that used to anchor entire city blocks. That’s a lot of good usable real estate going to waste. One solution: Turn them into apartments.

Bloomberg cites several interesting case studies that show the potential for turning former stores into living spaces. The May in downtown Cleveland was once a major shopping destination — the third-largest department store in the country. These days, it’s a swanky apartment building with 307 units and posh amenities, including a rooftop patio.

There may be many more former department stores that would be good candidates for residential reuse.

“Downtown department stores, which were fixtures of U.S. cities in the early 20th century, offer some key advantages over office buildings or other kinds of commercial structures when it comes to these residential renovations,” Bloomberg reports. “They often offer great views from ornate structures in strategic locations, plus the opportunity for property owners to collect tax credits for historic preservation.”

One challenge, however, is determining how to make use of all the interior space. In the May case, the building features a three-story atrium in the center, bringing plenty of natural light to the surrounding apartment units.

Though these types of projects would be urban with access to natural gas, there’d be multiple opportunities to incorporate propane appliances. To ensure adequate gas supply to the residents, propane could fuel tankless water heaters; hydronic floor heating; and common-space amenities such as fire features, spas, and heated pools.

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