Don't call an ambulance, but the traditional suburban office park in the Washington, D.C. region is dying. Washington Business Journal describes these office parks as "generally cut off from public transportation, lacking retail and amenities and employee housing options." The fact that suburban office developments are becoming ghost towns isn't exactly a new thing. In 2010, the Wall Street Journal reported that businesses in the suburbs vacated at a faster rate than businesses in downtown areas, with the suburbs losing a net 16 million-square-feet of occupied space in the first three quarters of 2010 in comparison to downtown's lost 119,000-square-feet. What has caused a new stir, though, is an in-depth assessment recently released by the Montgomery County Planning Department.
According to the 106-page study set to be released this Thursday, there is a total 71.5 million-square-feet of vacant office space throughout the D.C. region. The hardest hit areas include Fairfax County with 20 million-square-feet of vacant office space, D.C. proper with 15.6-million-square-feet, and Montgomery County with nearly 11 million-square-feet. According to the Washington Business Journal, there is little to no near-term relief suggested in the study, though the study does have recommendations, which include adding amenities to the office environment and competing for office tenants "more effectively." With little to no end in sight to the heightening vacancy rates, many developers have chosen to convert office buildings, basically giving up on the office industry. With retail and residential industries booming, office buildings are transitioning into condo developments, apartment developments, hotels, and in one case even a school. Below, see five former office developments around the D.C. region that have journeyed into new industries.
↑ Silver Spring's Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) building once served as an office space, but due to high vacancy rates, it was converted into a Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites.
↑ In Crystal City, the Crystal Plaza 6 office building became completely unoccupied by May 2014. With little hope of the development ever re-leasing, the Arlington County Board approved its conversion into an apartment building with 252 micro-units.
↑ The Computer Building, a five-story office space in Wheaton, is currently being converted into a mixed-use development with ground-floor retail and 194 apartments.
↑ In 6245 Leesburg Pike, this one-time commercial office building in Fairfax County was converted into an elementary school in 2014. The five-story building is now known as the Bailey's Upper Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences.
↑ In 2014, two Waterfront office buildings that once housed the EPA headquarters were converted into the residential developments, Sky House East and West. The developments house a total 530 units.
· The suburban office park is a relic. Here's the damage it's doing to one D.C.-area county [Washington Business Journal]
· Downtowns Get a Fresh Lease [Wall Street Journal]
· Planning Department Releases Office Market Assessment Report [Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission]