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Trend of Companies Packing More People Into Less Space Picks Up Pace; A 'Tiny Library' at One Law Firm
BY ELIOT BROWNAs the office-space market slogs along in a slow recovery, landlords face another hurdle: shrinking tenants.
Companies looking for cost savings are increasingly packing more employees into less space, a trend that is helping cause U.S. vacancy rates to linger at high levels even as employers add jobs in the slowly expanding economy.
Panasonic Corp., for example, is planning to move into a new 280,000-square-foot U.S. headquarters in Newark, N.J., next year. But it is taking significantly less than the approximately 575,000 square feet of office and labs at its current campus in Secaucus, N.J., . . .
Those who think that the departure of Accenture from Town Center to much smaller space in Arlington is a straw in the wind might want to look at today's Property Report in the WSJ (p c8) "Corporate Cramming Bedevils Office Recovery."
Among other things it notes:
The CEO of Brookfield, a major landowner in south Reston Town Center, says "the way that people are using space is changing."
- for cost saving reasons more companies are packing more employees into less space.
- workstations are shrinking and private offices disappearing.
- companies are looking for 200 sq ft per employee (not the 300 frequently cited as the marker).
The article notes this trend is apparent from users as disparate as elite law firms and the GSA.
The WSJ article echoes a post on this blog concerning Accenture's planned departure from Reston Town Center to smaller space in Arlington. That post concluded:However, no mention is made of an apparent driving force in the Accenture departure, get employees out closer to customers and let them use home offices more.
The core lesson from the Accenture headquarters departure experience appears to be that we need to re-think the mix of uses (and maybe the high densities) currently planned or being considered for the Dulles Corridor. If Accenture is a harbinger of things to come,
- We will need to see greater growth in residential space and less growth in office space than currently envisioned at both Tysons and Reston and maybe points farther west.
- Moreover, we will have to re-think the needs of the many new residents in these areas, including the nature of the local retail shopping experience (relatively fewer business-oriented restaurants, more pharmacies and supermarkets, for example), their access to cultural and recreational facilities, and (especially in Reston) the availability of public open space—largely parks and natural areas—to sustain and enhance the quality of life experience in this premier planned community.
In short, we must learn from the experiences of others and adapt our planning to the future as it is more likely to be rather than the one we are familiar with and, in some corners, hold dear. Only in this way will Fairfax County be able to make the Dulles Corridor the economic powerhouse its leaders envision and its developers, employees, and residents will find worth investing in.