Londoners will soon have the opportunity to live in a central London office block replacing the workers and corporations that have escaped their offices to work primarily at home.
Commercial property, such as offices and shops, has suffered profoundly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and, after 12 months of sitting empty as people work from home and shop online, landlords are beginning to realise that the world is never going to go back to how it was before.
The urgent shift to homeworking was forced upon companies around the world and was, at first, considered a temporary change until the virus could be quashed. However, working from home, otherwise known as remote working, has proven such a success that it’s unlikely that many of us will ever return to traditional office-based working 5 days a week.
For the people who rely on companies renting their office space, this is a disaster. All of a sudden, demand for their service has vanished and they’re left with hundreds of thousands of square feet of empty buildings in some of the world’s most expensive property markets.
There is no better example of this than The City of London, a small area of prime central London, home to some of the most famous landmarks and companies in the world. Before the pandemic, it was the most desirable office location in the UK. Today, however, the vast majority of its buildings are empty.
In an attempt to regain some of their losses and futureproof their assets, the City of London Corporation, responsible for looking after the famous Square Mile, has revealed plans to convert many of their offices in residential flats.
After learning from many of their biggest commercial tenants that flexible working is the plan moving forward and that they won’t be renewing their contracts, this shift will create 1,500 new homes by 2030.
A transformation of corporate London
By turning office buildings into homes, the City of London Corporation is going to forever transform the heart of the capital. Famously a ghost town on the weekends, the City of London has historically been fuelled by weekday office workers, so much so that many of the area’s pubs and bars don’t even open on Saturdays and Sundays.
With 1,500 new homes arriving and office workers leaving, the atmosphere will be very different, hopefully for the better.
By creating a brand new community, it is hoped that restaurants, bars, and retailers will flock back to the city and help build a genuine community feel which has long been missing from central London.
The vision is for people to live, work, and play in the same area, with all three aspects of life mixed together to create a thriving, energetic, and creative atmosphere. With the promise of a 5G rollout across the entire area, it is hoped that big tech companies will situate their new flexible working spaces here, helping London retain its place as one of the world’s primary forces in technology and innovation.
The City of London Corporation says it wants to “rise to the challenge of adapting to the new normal that emerges after the pandemic”. And by using a mix of new structures and refurbishments of existing properties, it promises at least 35% of the new stock will be ‘affordable housing’, with this number rising if “viable”.
Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair at the City of London Corporation, said:
“Firms have told us that they remain committed to retaining a central London hub but how they operate will inevitably change to reflect post-pandemic trends, such as hybrid and flexible working.
“The Square Mile must evolve in order to provide an ecosystem that remains attractive to workers, visitors, learners, and residents.”