Find Out Why Are Neglected Urban Spaces Making Popular Offices Today


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Demand for both commercial and residential space is giving new life to derelict industrial spaces and older offices.

Grungy run-down warehouses are no longer being demolished. Instead, these places are turning into highly sought-after office and residential spaces due to their “hip” and spacious attributes. If you look at corporate offices, such as Pinterest and Shopify’s headquarters, you’ll see our post-industrial society in full swing. Remnants of original factory architecture, exposed ceiling beams, and sometimes faded ‘gritty’ graffiti from the days of yesteryear all make an appearance in corporate settings. What makes these neglected urban spaces so appealing? Part of the allure comes from left behind real estate, and the fall of manufacturing; but here are three other reasons why companies love neglected urban spaces.

1. More space

Empty warehouses and factory buildings offer ample space, which can be ideal for expanding companies, startups, or even established companies moving many employees. Many startup companies see tremendous growth within a few years. Companies such as Uber, Facebook, and Shopify all saw rapid evolution with the rise of their digital technology. A space that can accommodate change and rising employee numbers is a perfect choice.

Re-purposed factories allow a large open-concept office design, and the space for major growth. These offices can squeeze far more workers per square foot compared to traditional office cubicles. Even older corporations are adopting open-concept offices to be a part of this movement.

2. Their appeal to a non-traditional demographic

Exposed ceilings. Wooden beams. Hanging lights. These are some of the architectural features found in modern office designs that make the space look edgy. Offices are no longer drab and uninspiring places to work in, but rather interesting places that foster creative thinking and new ideas.

This is an especially important feature among millennials, where culture fit is a big influencer when it comes to staying with an employer. This is a generation that demands more flexibility, collaboration, and meaningful work, compared to previous generations. In fact, over half of millennials are willing to take a 15% pay cut to work at a company that matches their ideal.

Millennials also prefer open-concepts because they don’t want to be limited by the cubicles of traditional offices. By stripping the cubicles and adding more flare to an office space, companies can showcase its character and attract more talent.

3. The location

There was a point when companies moved to the suburbs due to space and lower costs. However, because many of the largest cities are now home to tech and service-related industries, a large movement resulted in many companies setting up shop back in major metropolises. Many companies find themselves moving their office location to urban spaces for the benefits of being in a central location, better transportation options, the amenities of fine restaurants and shops; and the appeal to a younger demographic who prefer to live in the city.

Some examples

From Shopify to Pinterest, these re-invented urban spaces are cropping up in most major cities. Here are a few examples.

Office a view


Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, 9thCO is a full-service digital agency dedicated to generating leads for clients. Its current office used to be a run-down factory that’s been completely transformed and converted into a dream office building. 
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The popular social media platform Pinterest is headquartered in San Francisco. Its building used to be an industrial warehouse before it turned into a ginormous office, where most of its collaborative and creative work takes place.


Shopify’s headquarter is located in a 100-year-old-brick-and-beam building at King and Spadina. Its office space is designed to enable maximum flexibility, and is filled with quirky features such as wood-slatted walls to evoke shipping containers and guitars in the rec room for plucking.

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The media company Vice expanded its Canadian office space by moving to a warehouse in Liberty Village. With 25,000 square feet (plus a rooftop patio), the space can accommodate up to 150 employees. The office also features a screening room and an open bar for those Thursday or Friday evenings after work.

Something old, something new

What’s also great about these urban buildings—in addition to their ample space, edgy appeal, and location—is that they are perfect fixer-uppers. By installing modern solutions such as industrial-style lighting, sliding glass doors, interesting and fun office workstations, and large windows, these old warehouses and abandoned factories can easily transform into a chic and functional working environment.

This splendid phenomenon is also known as adaptive re-use, we invite you to learn more about here.

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