The transformation of suburban office parks into
The transformation of suburban office parks into new urban town centers caught the attention of USA Today, which ran a lengthy feature on September 13 that focused on Legacy Town Center in Plano, Texas, among other projects. “Many of today’s young professionals, the creative engines of the knowledge economy, don’t want to feel stuck in a glass box,” reports writer Haya El Nasser. “They prefer 24-hour, urban neighborhoods where they can work, walk, shop, dine, and live.”
Legacy began as an office park, the home since the 1980s of EDS, the technology giant founded by Ross Perot, in addition to offices for J.C. Penney, Frito-Lay, Dr Pepper/7 UP, ComCast, and AT&T Wireless. It was the epitome of a drab suburban corporate environment. “Today, pedestrian-friendly streets, upscale boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, theaters, coffee shops, a town square, hotel, and 640 apartments are within a five-minute walk from EDS’ front gate,” El Nasser writes. Townhouses and more apartments are under construction. A typical resident, 25-year-old EDS employee Steve Zaiser, is profiled. His commute is a quarter-mile walk, and Zaiser talks about the benefits of living in a neighborhood where “great margaritas” are available.
Today’s young professionals “wouldn’t be caught dead in an office park,” says Andres Duany, whose firm designed Legacy Town Center and some of the other projects mentioned, including Riverside in Atlanta and the Upper Rock District in Rockville, Maryland. “What it’s about is the lifestyle, not the look of the building. A glass box is totally uncool now.”
Author and consultant Peter Katz believes there is great potential for adding density and mixed use to office parks all across the US. “Think of them as land banks for future development,” he says. “If it’s well located, today’s failing office park could become tomorrow’s downtown.”