Is the age of the purpose-built office district dead?

It was recently reported that HSBC plans to move out of its global headquarters in Canary Wharf, London.

Research by property analytics provider CoStar has also revealed that vacant office space is at a record high, with an increase of 68% on the pre-pandemic level recorded in early 2020.

Reportedly Knight Frank and commercial real estate firm Cresa found that 50% the largest businesses they questioned expect to shrink their global workspaces.

Paradoxically the Cresa survey also found that this contrasts with the expectations of smaller firms surveyed – those with up to 10,000 employees – just over half (55%) of whom said they were expecting to increase their global office space.

Is this evidence of an increasing divide between businesses embracing hybrid working and smaller, greener, more flexible headquarters that is more convenient for employees and old command and control bosses mandating staff to be in the office the majority of the time?

Certainly, the move by HSBC and reportedly other large firms has given Canary Wharf some problems and an uncertain future.

Landlord Canary Wharf Group (CWG) has been trying to diversify to make the area more attractive by planning to build a life sciences hub, and courting technology and media companies as well as charities.

It has also added shops, bars and restaurants in recent years, landscaped the areas between its glass-and-steel towers and created a public art trail.

But with fewer workers travelling there and for fewer days and the ongoing problem that it is virtually deserted at night, how long can it last?

What do you think about the future of office work and purpose-built office districts? 

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