This research started out in 2011 when the total supply of office space in the Netherlands was 48.2 million m² lettable floor area (LFA). Of these offices, 6.8 million m² LFA was left vacant in Q4 2011, meaning there was 14.1% office vacancy.
Office vacancy occurs due to a mismatch in demand and supply, both quantitative (the market) as qualitative (building and location characteristics). The economic crisis led to a decrease of office jobs, leading to a declined demand for office space. Simultaneously, ‘the new way of working’ ensures that companies can cope with less office space than before. The ageing population in the Netherlands causes the working population to decrease, also bringing down the demand.
Currently there are still new buildings being developed. These buildings usually meet the qualitative demands of office user organizations, causing the lower end of the office market to become vacant. Although there are experts who believe the market will improve, others are more sceptical. They state that there is a structural surplus in the office market, and that vacancy will persist in the lower end of the office market. There are several possibilities of how to cope with vacancy, one of which is conversion. However, actions usually take place on building level and not on urban level. There are many cases where actions on building level aren’t sufficient but action needs to be taken on urban scale. Knowledge on the impact of the area on office vacancy should be further developed, as should the urban strategies of regenerating an office area. To deal with office vacancy is an assignment with urban dimensions.
The aim of this research is twofold. The aim is (1) to find common location characteristics increasing the risk of the occurrence of structural office vacancy, and (2) to design an urban strategy for an office district with high office vacancy in Utrecht. This graduation project has focussed on the following three aspects in particular; (1) validating previous research results in a different context, (2) specifying these results with different research methods and (3) developing a regeneration strategy on urban area level for an office district.
The structure of the research is to first identify which location characteristics are increasing risk on structural office vacancy in office districts. With that knowledge, the next question is how to eliminate these found factors and define an urban strategy to revitalize an area with high vacancy rates. This results in the following main research question: “Which and to what extent do location characteristics increase the risk of the occurrence of structural office vacancy in Utrecht, and what kind of urban strategies are needed to regenerate the Merwede quarter, an area with high structural office vacancy?”