Here at Builder, we’re always on the lookout for innovative ideas, and adaptive reuse—taking a dilapidated old building and having the patience, skill, focus, and vision to repurpose it for a brand new residential use—is high on our list of favorites. Factories, warehouses, and schools are common, because of their generously sized (read, cavernous) spaces. Churches are up there, too, because of soaring ceilings and winsome details. But lately we’ve made note of another building type that seems to be prime for adaptive reuse, and that's prisons.

In Detroit, Mich., a prison has been transformed into galleries and studios. In Kassel, Germany, a hostel is no longer hostile. In Salem, Mass., an old jail has been turned into luxury condos. There has even been talk of a condo conversion for Sing Sing—place of Willie Sutton’s escape and, along with Alcatraz, San Quentin, and Folsom, one of the nation’s most iconic slammers.

With existing home inventories this low, it makes sense. And the trend could give the term Big House a whole new meaning.