A New Life for the Suburban Office Park?

With more and more employers downsizing and moving to areas with more urban amenities, large suburban office parks offer an opportunity for increased density and mixed-use development.

2 minute read

July 6, 2022, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Writing in The New York Times, Emily Badger describes the plight of a fading American typology: the suburban office park. “Today suburban office parks have drawn far less attention than downtown offices that are also threatened by remote work. But their decline reflects in some ways a more sweeping and permanent judgment — of once-dominant ideas about where Americans work, how the office should look, and what the suburbs should be.”

According to Badger, “Far from downtowns, there is a different kind of emptiness in suburban settings that were already isolated and lightly populated by design.” While some office parks will likely be modernized and used as offices again, “Other sites will have to become something fundamentally different: schools, senior living centers, apartment complexes, public parks, warehouses.” According to an estimate by commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, “57 percent of suburban office space nationwide is so old as to be functionally obsolete.”

However, their massive footprints offer the opportunity for redevelopment with a variety of uses and amenities. “Amid a nationwide housing crisis, many obsolete office parks could be ideal sites for denser housing.” As Badger points out, “Multifamily housing is expensive to build, but the land now being used for suburban parking lots is cheap, so the economics can work out (if the politics do).” To this end, cities and counties must be open to zoning reforms that allow for adaptive reuse of office parks and promote mixed-use development on these sites.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022 in The New York Times

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