Over the past decades, developing commercial real estate has been a moneymaking machine. Due to the emerging technologies that stimulate virtual coworking, we no longer have to work in designated offices. By now, we have, in The Netherlands as well as the rest of Europe, a surplus of office space, and as our working habits become more flexible and mobile, the demand for office space will only decrease. Where e-commerce is growing faster than ever, a declining demand for retail space will follow.
Still, in the eyes of our administrators, “thinking big” is nowhere near big enough. Suddenly, every self-respecting city wants a Bio Science Park. Or a Creative Valley. They are swayed by the issues of the day, and their only goal is to hike up their property values. In Europe, we have over 150 Science Parks. In The Netherlands, Bio Science Parks are offered by the cities of Leiden, Wageningen, Utrecht, Amsterdam (three locations), Rotterdam (three locations), and Delft. The province of Limburg beats them all, with four locations: Parkstad, Venray, Sittard, and Maastricht. Thirteen Bio Parks in The Netherlands? Dream on! To people abroad, The Netherlands is one big city; offering thirteen dens can’t be taken seriously.
The focus needs to be shifted toward reuse and renovation. The demand for extra square footage of office space is declining. New developments, therefore, have to make way for replacement and new use.
The municipality of Amsterdam has already struck the right note out of necessity. Due to market developments alone, they have had to cross out a million square meters (10.7 million square feet) of new office space: a loss of €345 million of forecasted revenue. It will now be written off, and, as a result, several municipal initiatives will have to be halted. This is just the beginning of the end for this load of froth, because the European housing corporations are still stuck with plots of land, which are worth billions of Euros. Many cities, organizations, and more money will follow. All of this is in dire need of different legislation. It simply needs to be made possible that old offices can have a different purpose so that they can be reused for other purposes, like living, schools, small-scaled production, or a combination of these. The municipality of Amsterdam even has appointed an “office-space intermediary” to smooth this transformation of buildings toward new purposes.