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Who Pays When Corporate Campuses Leave the Suburbs?

When corporations move out of the suburbs, they leaving behind largely unprofitable corporate campuses. Loss of property value and tax revenue follow in the communities they left.
May 28, 2020, 10am PDT | Lee Flannery | @leecflannery
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Past decades have seen a trend of major corporations moving their headquarters away from suburbs and small cities and toward larger cities or, in some cases, remote work environments. "Suburban business parks are as outdated and obsolete as fax machines," writes David Bernstein in an article tracking 'big empties,' the "sprawling, once-trendy corporate campuses left behind in the suburbs as companies increasingly relocate to urban centers."

Developing technologies enabled companies like Kmart, McDonald's, Motorola Solutions, and Kraft Heinz to leave their corporate campuses, says Bernstein. It's no longer necessary for all employees to work from a central office. The emptiness of once-booming business centers has consequences for the communities in which they stand. Bernstein traces examples of unoccupied corporate campuses that, without tenants, lose property value and tax revenue leaving local government to pick up the slack.

The vacant campuses now face one of two futures: continued vacancy or demolition. In the case of an AT&T campus that has lost more than $6 million in value over the past five years, plans are being developed to build a 'metroburb,' complete with retail, restaurants, office space, and housing in its place.

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Published on Monday, May 18, 2020 in ProPublica
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