From the comments the other day, but good enough to get top page billing. From the NY Times:
Perched off a busy road in northern New Jersey with sweeping vistas of a vast reservoir sits a new relic of the suburban panorama: the international headquarters of Toys “R” Us slogging through its final days after the company announced that it would be shutting down for good.
The decline of the toy giant prompted wistful recollections across the country of the increasingly bygone era of brick-and-mortar retail, but concern in this town quickly turned to the exoskeleton that the company leaves behind — a roughly 200-acre plot with multiple office buildings scattered across the land that once housed as many as 1,600 workers.
While the worry locally is focused in part on what an extended vacancy might mean for the town’s tax base, the fate of the once thriving headquarters illustrates a much broader reality confronting many towns across America: the era of the suburban office parks is coming to an end.
Outside Silicon Valley and other areas that have benefited from the technology boom, what were once the lifeblood of many suburbs have now become eyesores, forests of empty glass and concrete boxes that communities must figure out what to do with.
“The model as it played out in New Jersey is now seemingly obsolete,” said Louise A. Mozingo, the chairwoman of the department of landscape architecture and environmental planning at University of California, Berkeley.
Suburban office parks have lost their luster for a variety of reasons, including a growing preference among younger workers for life in more dynamic urban centers than in sometimes staid and sleepy suburbs. And the rapid pace of technological advancement has made the need for many clerical and processing jobs and the real estate to house those workers increasingly obsolete.
But it was the recession and its aftermath that sounded the death knell for many suburban parks; New Jersey lost about 100,000 office-related jobs since 2008, according to James W. Hughes, a professor at Rutgers University. By 2010, the majority of the state’s suburban office inventory was between 20 and 30 years old, built during a much more primitive information technology era.
“So, not only do we have a lot of obsolete space, but we also have workplace densification occurring at the same time,” said Mr. Hughes, referring to the move by many companies toward smaller, shared work spaces. “That’s the dilemma that really burst onto the scene maybe three years ago or four years ago.”
In the 1980s, about 90 to 100 million square feet of suburban office space was built in New Jersey, accounting for 80 percent of the state’s inventory, Mr. Hughes said. By contrast, only 50 percent of the national suburban office inventory was built in the same period.
New Jersey currently has over 6.5 million square feet of vacant office park space, according to CoStar, a commercial real estate company. In northern New Jersey, 23 percent of office space is listed as available, which includes vacant spaces and buildings that are emptying out as leases end, according to Newmark Knight Frank, a commercial real estate firm.
But vacant office parks are important to municipal coffers because they remain on property tax rolls. Yet the longer they sit vacant, the faster their assessments plummet, forcing municipalities to find other sources of revenue and in some cases raise real estate taxes in a state that already has the country’s highest property taxes.
“None of these millennials want to work in a corporate campus in western Morris County and have to commute long distances to meet their friends at a bar,’’ said Carl Goldberg, a developer who has been vocal about the redevelopment of office parks. “It’s just not the lifestyle that they’re interested in.”
In Wayne, where the Toys “R” Us logo still welcomes passers-by to the campus, Mayor Christopher P. Vergano said he believed the site would prove desirable, though possibly as something far different.
“I think there will be change,’’ he said, “only because we don’t see big corporate tenants buying 200-acre properties anymore.”