Tall & Urban News

City of London Looks to Turn Empty Offices into Homes

29 April 2021 | London, United Kingdom

The City of London Corporation has said it will explore ways to re-use vacant office space, including by creating 1,500 new homes by 2030.

The commitment is one of several ideas unveiled by the authority to shake up the Square Mile and combat the effects of home working and hybrid working on the central London office district.

In a report published by its Recovery Task Force, the City of London said it wanted to create a more mixed-use area, acknowledging that it must "adapt to post-pandemic economic and social trends."

One of its proposals is to "work with the property industry" to promote flexible and adaptable buildings. The corporation said there will be ‘opportunities for culture, retail, hospitality and start-ups."

However, it also said it wanted to find "new ways to use vacant space and aim for at least 1,500 new residential units by 2030" – which would represent an increase of 20 percent on the 7,850 homes currently in the Square Mile.

The proposal is a response to an increase in the amount of empty office space caused by pandemic and the expectation that hybrid-working and home working could mean companies are consolidating on office space for years to come.

It comes as the City of London has an enormous office pipeline. In 2016, before Brexit or coronavirus, the corporation predicted it would need 2 million square meters of new office space by 2036. It now expects three-quarters of this figure to be delivered by 2025/26.

Elsewhere in its report, the City of London said it would create my dynamic business environment by encouraging smaller, tech-focused businesses to come into the area, as well as providing low-cost, long-term rents to cultural and creative businesses.

It also said it would try to "enable and animate the City’s weekend and night-time offer,’ by programming ‘major events" and potentially having traffic-free weekends throughout the City of London during summer.

The corporation also said it will have a "programme of weekday events" which "support physical and mental wellbeing among the City’s workforce and promote diversity and belonging."

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, said: ‘[We] have been listening to businesses of all sizes in the City to understand how the pandemic has affected their ways of working and their needs going forward.

"Firms have told us that they remain committed to retaining a central London hub but how they operate will inevitably change to reflect post-pandemic trends, such as hybrid and flexible working.

"The Square Mile must evolve in order to provide an ecosystem that remains attractive to workers, visitors, learners and residents. This will involve encouraging growth, fostering talent from all backgrounds, providing a vibrant leisure offer and offering outstanding environments.

"Inclusion, innovation and sustainability should be at the core of the future City. We remain confident that the Square Mile will return to its usual buzz and vibrancy by building on these pillars."

For more on this story, go to Architects' Journal.