Finding a productive use for all the empty lobby space in office buildings

08Jun10

Many of the office buildings near me have huge lobbies with only a few widely-spaced pieces of furniture. Sure, there might be a security desk and other functional areas in the lobby, but it’s not uncommon to see 50-75% of the lobby be totally empty. I’m guessing these lobbies were originally designed as a statement of corporate power, i.e. the company is so wealthy it can afford to pay for all that space and not even do anything with it.

Given the growing awareness of environmental and sustainability issues, I bet a lot of employees, customers and passers-by would interpret the typical empty lobby space as a show of greed and wastefulness. There’s just no logical reason to pay for rent or a mortgage or property taxes or air conditioning bills and then just let the space sit vacant. It’s an expensive statement, and sends the wrong message.

What’s the solution? I would convert those giant empty lobby areas into something that generates revenue and provides a valuable service to employees, customers or even the general public. Even if the area can’t be effectively subdivided into more traditional retail or restaurant space, you could probably put up mall-style retail kiosks. Think coffee, snacks, or newsstand offerings. Considering how many coffee and donut shops there are in big cities, I doubt it would be hard to find someone to rent the space and operate the food carts.

Regardless of the exact business model, it would be great to see this dead space put into productive use. Aside from the aesthetic and revenue benefits, converting unused, wasted space into something valuable would improve the quality of life for employees who work in the building, while making customers more inclined to visit as well.



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