Though the majority of office parks are still occupied, enough of them stand empty to raise questions on how best to reuse them. With relatively minimal changes, former headquarters or corporate campuses could be subdivided to accommodate multiple tenants. These facilities could also be adapted to entirely new uses, such as medical malls, hospitals, community colleges, or retail centers. Office parks with vast landscaped lawns could conceivably become parkland and recreation centers.
Altering zoning is a complex process, but a few former corporate office buildings have even been transformed into loft-like residences, such as the Cloud 9 Sky Flats in Minnetonka, Minn., by Julie Snow Architects. A few other developers have proposed adapting suburban office buildings into similar housing as part of larger mixed-use developments with a New Urbanist slant, such as a 2004 proposal by Duany Plater-Zyberk for the Upper Rock District in Rockville, Md.
The biggest challenge in adapting empty office parks is connecting them with their broader context. The parks’ site-plans were often designed as closed-loops, with wider-than-necessary streets and a lack of sidewalks. To tie them into the suburban fabric, developers face the prospect of extending streets and sidewalks, as well as constructing infill buildings to bridge large setbacks along property edges.
Mozingo emphasizes that she doesn’t believe everyone should move downtown. “As businesses consider optimal locations in the future, they won’t be thinking in terms of urban versus suburban, but whether it is near reliable public transportation,” she says. “Office park developers who attach themselves to public transportation—those are the ones who are surviving.”