Abandoned buildings are something we automatically learn to ignore, which makes them the perfect cover for someone who doesn't want to draw attention to themselves. Like someone operating a less-than-legal business, an illegal gambling den, or the Masquerade. Which means that that abandoned building off in the distance, might not be so abandoned after all, it's just kept looking that way to keep out the curious.
Not usually for fight scenes and gunfights like its close relative Abandoned Warehouse, generally people want to keep this building intact. Doesn't mean there won't be an underground fight club there though.
- In A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Professor Hobby's headquarters and android production lines are located in the submerged ruins of Manhattan, for some reason.
- In Ant-Man, Scott tries to steal a MacGuffin from an old Stark Industries storage facility by taking an army of ants to break in. Only when they arrive do they realize that it's not quite as abandoned as Scott and Pym thought, as it's been turned into the Avengers Headquarters!
Scott: Hank, didn't you say this was "some old warehouse"? It's not! YOU SON OF A BITCH!
- In Following, the burglar Cobb has a few hideouts in abandoned buildings where he stashes stolen goods before fencing them. He notes that London is full of spaces like these, waiting to be used.
- James Bond:
- The abandoned lot in The Shadow turns out to be an entire hotel (the bad guy's base) disguised by illusion power.
- Raylene from Cherie Priest's Chesire Red series is a cat burglar who owns a seemingly abandoned warehouse to store things she's stolen. She lets two homeless siblings with prepaid phones stay there and act as an alarm system, because while an actual security guard or electronic alarm system might look suspicious, homeless squatters in an abandoned warehouse doesn't seem out of the ordinary.
- Codex Alera: Academ's Fury has some of the students go into a decrepit school building... only to open a secret door and take a tunnel into their dojo, where they are learning to be Cursors.
- Harry Potter:
- It is noted that, to the perspective of Muggles, Hogwarts looks like an abandoned castle.
- The Shrieking Shack actually was abandoned, but this made it a convenient place for the Marauders to hang out during Remus Lupin's recurring nights as a werewolf. Dumbledore specifically encouraged rumors about it being haunted to keep curious people from exploring it.
- The magical hospital St. Mungo's is disguised as a permanently "closed for refurbishing" department store in the middle of London.
- In Robert Westall's The Machine Gunners, the gang of children build their secret fortress in the garden of a house that's been destroyed by a bomb blast and deliberately spread false rumours about seeing ghostly lights and other spooky things there to help keep people away. Later, they put up fake War Office signs warning of unexploded bombs and minefields.
- In John Sladek's satirical short story "Masterson and the Clerks" the eponymous characters work in what seems like a thriving office building, until a demolition company arrives to tear it down, claiming that it's been abandoned for years.
- In one episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Jake and Charles use an abandoned building across the street from a drug dealer's hideout to spy on him. Unfortunately, the Cabin Fever and being around each other all the time sets them on edge and they're loud enough that their cover is blown.
- In an episode of Castle, the police discover that the suspects have been using homes that were foreclosed on by a particular bank. When they investigate one, they find a roughly-constructed trapdoor to a basement, leading them to think it's being used for human trafficking. (It's actually tiger trafficking)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Galadriel and her company expected Sauron's fortress in Forodwaith to be abandoned. They are taken by surprise when a snow-troll attacks them and injures several Elves.
- Warehouse 13: The eponymous Secret Government Warehouse appears to be nothing more than a run-down building out in the middle of nowhere, when it is in fact a large underground complex.
- The Wire: vacant townhouses line many of the streets the show is set on. Wallace lives in one with a host of other kids without adult supervision, season 3 revolves around Colvin pushing the drug trade to streets with no residents (although to his surprise, one of his chosen locations still had a regular legal resident) and both the dealers and users set up in the vacants, and one is turned into an impromptu clinic.
- The dilapidated planetarium in the aptly-named online puzzle-story Planetarium is ignored by the townspeople and seems to be abandoned, and the story's narrator even points out that the mathemagician's purchase of it is a curious one, considering that he doesn't even visit it all that often. It, of course, turns out to have more than one surprise and living thing hiding in it.
- Evil Genius 2 works an Exploitation of this trope by the Forces of Justice early on in the game. Your Evil Genius will be vexed at why the good guys continue to send agents to investigate your operations on the abandoned island and cause delays to their plans because their minions keep having to stop and fight them; one of the minions will point out that all the helicopter visits your minions need to get on and off the island rather breaks the fiction that the island is abandoned. The Evil Genius basically goes "Fiiiiine, let's go kidnap a valet and learn how to distract agents with a casino."
- Kiwi Blitz: The body-modding crime syndicate ALTER has their base in an abandoned office building that's supposedly under perpetual construction. The above-ground floors of the building really are completely empty; meanwhile, the gang secretly uses the underground level and parking garage for their illicit activities.
- Skin Deep: Avalons are where the local monsters go to hang out with each other in their non-human forms; some of them do have members (in human form) stationed around the entrances to keep the everyday Muggles out.
- Drug labs can sometimes involve abandoned buildings, especially those that produce a great deal of waste.
- And of course, there's plenty of cases where homeless people will be squatting in abandoned houses.
- Often perfectly good buildings are kept deliberately abandoned by their owners as an investment, hoping the prices to rise before selling or renting them out. Since this usually requires housing shortage to happen, the practice is often criticized, and regularly activists openly take over these buildings as publicity stunts to make public aware of this wasted space.