Reports of their demise are exaggerated
The tech sector is likely to displace financial services companies that relocate their employees. Yet more flexible, distributed working patterns could smooth stressed road and public transport capacity, generating higher long-term economic activity and productivity. Cities also have new freedom and opportunity to reimagine their purpose and cater for different uses.
What seems clear is that CBDs of the future won’t just be places where people work. Rather, they have potential to evolve into vibrant 24/7 mixed-use districts – with commercial, cultural and recreational offerings enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. A potential catalyst involves transforming underutilised or obsolete space in aging office blocks.
In some cities, this is being unlocked for entrepreneurs, creatives and artists, and other experimental uses, supported by new arrangements between tenants and landlords.
Barcelona, for example, is turning one of its historic post office buildings into a technology incubator for 150 startups and 1,500 workers. The storeys above ground floor retail are suited to host libraries, creative studios and leisure facilities such as gyms.
As major city retailers and department stores come under further pressure from online shopping, vacant spaces may be replaced with more hangout areas and experience-based malls.