What To Do With a Large Empty Building

Large empty spaces can have a multitude of uses from expanding indoors to a home gym or guest room, to expanding outdoors as a home garden. For commercial buildings, one can upgrade its facilities into an events place, to hosting community activities that require little renovation, to leasing the entire space out. Just take note of your needs, what you have to work with and think about if the ideas will last long term.

Image from Gallery of MASS MoCA Building 6 / Bruner/Cott & Associates – 3 (archdaily.com)

Ideas for your Residential Space (Private)

We may find ourselves living in a space too big for us, or find our spare rooms aren’t put to much use. You may also end up having multiple vacant rooms when your kids grow up and move out. Here are a few ideas to spruce up those unused spaces: (1)

  • Home Library: Create a nice cozy nook to retreat to
  • Personal Studio/Gallery: Let your passion fill the space whether it be painting, sculpting, dancing, or music recording
  • Home Gym: Rather than having all your workout equipment lying around, put them all into a gym space. You may even find yourself more motivated in breaking a sweat!
  • Home Office: Who isn’t thinking of this space now since the pandemic? It’s a space that’s good to have should you need to work from home.
  • Home Theater: This may be one of the priciest options but makes for great family bonding time.
  • Game Room: This could be combined with some of those above like the theater. This is a great idea especially if you’re the designated party home: a pool table, dartboard or foosball table and you’re done!
  • Guest Room: Whether its family or friends visiting from abroad, your kid coming from college or parents coming to stay over, a guest room is a great addition if you find yourself in these situations often.
  • Kids’ Playroom: Kids need a place for all their toys and to run free! What’s great is that later on this can be converted into their study as they get older.
  • Walk-In-Closet / Vanity : Maybe it’s time to have that lavish dream closet you’ve been dreaming of with a vanity dresser. Although it’d have to be in close proximity to your bedroom.
  • Home Garden/Patio: This can be the costliest if you plan to open up the space outdoors and will definitely take a lot of maintenance but can give tremendous health benefits.

Ideas for your Commercial Space

Private Events/ Activities

  • Corporate events, Symposiums
  • Photoshoots
  • Parties, Weddings — Events venue
  • Professional Training Grounds
  • Pop-Up markets, Bazaars
  • Retail launch, Brand Promotion
  • Retreats / Company Outings
  • Museum/Art Gallery


  • Common amenities: toilet, kitchen, storage
  • Wide spacious open plan
  • Accessibility from the town or a scenic landscape with ample parking
  • Instagrammable spots
Image from Architecture Research Office and Dia Art Foundation Transform a Trio of Industrial Buildings in Cheslea into Galleries – Interior Design

You can angle what type of events your space would be best for, what market is near it then upgrade and advertise it accordingly. (2)

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can partner with companies or convert the building yourself into a fun activity space. Maybe your area would enjoy a shooting range, some indoor mini golf, go kart track, “escape the room”, laser gun/paintball, haunted house or light show! (3)

These ideas are perfect for those who’d like to turn their building into a business and don’t want any long term contracts. One however does need the time, resources and financial capital to get started. Market research and advertising is needed, however it keeps the space flexible and open to your future plans.

Lease it in Part

  • Fitness Studio / Gym
  • Photography/Recording Studio
  • Exhibition Center
  • Storage Warehouse
  • Co-Working Space / Startup business incubator

These kinds of options are great if you’d like people renting it out per week or a per month basis. This might be easier to lease out varied space sizes rather than trying to sell the whole thing (at least giving you income in part rather than none at all). It may be difficult to handle multiple clients leasing at once, but it can make your space interesting by offering a variety of activities in one building.

Lease it Whole

  • Offices
  • Storage Warehouse: Cold Storage, cargo, landscaping tools, laundromat
  • Church
  • Companies that need a lot of storage e.g. Construction Materials, Fabric Stores, Cargo Logistics, Printing Press etc.
  • Sports/ Fitness Center: Sports courts, dance/martial arts studios, indoor climbing, bowling
  • Museum/Art Gallery
  • Indoor Aquarium/Mini Zoo
  • Parking Lot (especially in a CBD that lacks parking!)

If you’re leasing it as an office, you definitely need easy access to the site and good utilities, especially strong internet connection. Additional amenities like a fitness corner or lounge would be a plus! (2)

This is ideal for those who just want to leave the property earning money, without bothering too much with it. It’ll take a lot of work and patience to find that one client who’ll take care of it well (at the price you want) but will save you a lot of worry down the road.

On a Lower Budget? Smaller Scale Ideas?

Did your building suffer some damage? Maybe it underwent a fire or is just in a state without a roof! There are still plenty of ideas one can do to turn it into a beloved space. Just try and get some security and install a public toilet or porta potty! (4)

Pocket Garden + Park

Spruce it up with some greenery!

With some plastic sheeting on top, this can become a greenhouse or huge flower shop and cafe!

Engage the city mayor and see if they need some green in the middle of the city turned into a temporary parklet, community vegetable garden or pet park!

:“Cover the roof area with transparent plastic sheeting, add a fan for heat buildup, restore water and electrical service to the building, and use it as a greenhouse for high-value cooking herbs and spices for local restaurants, tended by the kitchen staffs. Many chefs maintain their own; it makes so much of a difference.” – Al Jones of Greenhouse Concept (4)

It can be as simple as a greenhouse or as crazy as putting up a skating rink in the winter that turns into a pool in the summer!

Outdoor Entertainment

Remember those drive in or open air movie theaters?

You can even turn your space into a community outdoor theater or memorial museum, with installations that can take in the open air weather. Outdoor events space for concerts, pop-up bazaars, farmer’s market, food truck, food park dining and festivals.

Functional Space

Many companies always need a storage warehouse, like retail companies with excess inventory. Perhaps you have some friends working in companies that need their archive files or old furniture stock stored safely. So just invest in good security and the rest will take care of itself!

Some areas always lack parking. So capitalize on this and charge for car or bike parking lots. Second hand vehicle dealerships also just need a large open space, just check on any licensing needed! (3)

You can also turn it into a recycling center or lease it to someone that handles waste.

See how your community reacts and what they might need. Perhaps there are some artists that need a gallery or many kids that want a play space! (5)

Image from 10 Amazing Tech Company Headquarters | Architectural Digest


  1. *. (2019, March 28). Spare room ideas: 10 ideas to use the empty enclosed spaces in your home. Weetas Real Estate Blog, Market Stats, Real Estate Analysis. Retrieved June 2022, from https://www.weetas.com/article/spare-room-ideas/
  2. Adams, L. D. (2021, June 23). 5 ways you can profit from your empty office space. Entrepreneur. Retrieved June 2022, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/373813
  3. ZenBusiness Inc. (2022, March 2). Warehouse business ideas for empty buildings. ZenBusiness Inc. Retrieved June 2022, from https://www.zenbusiness.com/business-ideas-empty-warehouse/
  4. McCray, B. (2015, January 19). 19 things you can do with an empty lot or a building that has no roof. Small Biz Survival. Retrieved June 2022, from https://smallbizsurvival.com/2015/01/roofless-buildings.html
  5. Garbo, H. (2014, June 11). 27 ideas for activating vacant space. Downtown Colorado Inc. Retrieved June 2022, from https://downtowncoloradoinc.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/27-ideas-for-activating-vacant-space/