What’s Next for Vacant Commercial Properties?

abandoned commercial property

The past decade has seen a dramatic shift in the way we live, work and shop, transforming how we consume goods and services. The high street is changing and, with it, the properties that line its streets. 

Many physical stores and restaurants are struggling to keep their doors open in the face of online competition and in recent years, a surge in vacant commercial properties has caused concern among local communities, businesses and landlords alike. 

But what could be next for these formerly bustling spaces? From innovative new uses to upcycling projects, there are many possibilities at play – each offering new opportunities in terms of business and community engagement.

The rise of vacant commercial properties

A growing appetite for online shopping, banking and food delivery services has led to a significant decrease in footfall on the high street, meaning many traditional brick-and-mortar stores have struggled to stay afloat. 

According to research by the Local Data Company, the vacancy rate in UK town centres reached 14.3% in January 2021, the highest level since 2013.

Online competition in the hospitality sector

The rise of online shopping and food delivery services has had a significant impact on physical stores and restaurants. Many consumers find it more convenient to shop or order food online rather than venturing out to a physical location, resulting in a decrease in foot traffic on the high street. 

This trend has been particularly evident in the hospitality industry, where many restaurants and bars have had to close their doors permanently due to a lack of customers. With more and more consumers turning to online platforms to satisfy their hunger cravings, it’s no surprise that food and beverage businesses are scrambling to keep up with the demand.

The future of vacant bank branches

One of the biggest contributors to the surge in vacant commercial properties is the banking industry. The move has been driven by a combination of factors, including the rise of online banking, increased competition and changing customer behaviour. Fewer people are now visiting physical branches, making them less cost-effective for banks to operate.

So, what will  happen to these empty bank branches? One option is to repurpose them for other uses. Some banks have already taken this approach, with Natwest converting some of its old branches into community centres or shared workspaces. This not only helps to revitalise the high street, but it also provides a valuable resource for local communities.

What’s next for vacant commercial properties?

With so many empty commercial properties on the high street, it’s natural to wonder what will become of them. Here are some possible outcomes;

  • Repurposing. One option for vacant commercial properties is to repurpose them. This could involve converting them into residential properties, offices, or even community spaces. Upcycling projects offer endless possibilities – from turning an old office building into affordable housing units to transforming an abandoned warehouse into a vibrant community centre.
  • Redevelopment. Another option is to redevelop the site entirely. This could involve demolishing the existing structure and building something new in its place, or it could involve a significant renovation. Depending on the location and size of the property, it could be used for a variety of purposes, such as residential or commercial development.
  • Short-term leases. Short-term leases are becoming increasingly popular as a way to fill vacant properties. This option allows businesses to take on a property for a short period of time without committing to a long-term lease. Short-term leases are often used by pop-up shops and those renting commercial kitchens, but they can also be used by businesses looking to test out a new location before committing to a long-term lease.

Upcycling ideas for vacant property

With a little creativity and innovation, these empty spaces can be transformed into something useful and valuable for the community. Including;

Community space

One idea for repurposing a vacant commercial building is to turn it into a community space. This could include a community centre, a library, or a recreational facility. These spaces can provide a gathering place for residents, promote social interaction, and offer valuable services and resources to the community.

Co-working space

Another idea is to turn the vacant commercial building into a co-working space. This could include private offices, conference rooms, and shared workspaces. With the rise of remote work and the gig economy, co-working spaces have become increasingly popular. Plus, they can provide a sense of community and collaboration among entrepreneurs and freelancers.


Another option is to sell the properties to developers who can transform them into residential or commercial spaces. This could help ease the housing crisis in some areas by providing affordable and unique living options.

Commercial kitchens

With the rise of online food delivery services, the demand for commercial and food delivery kitchen rentals have sky-rocketed. These kitchens are often located in previously vacant commercial properties and offer a low-cost entry into the food service industry. Not only do they offer an opportunity for new businesses to enter the market, but they also help to reduce the cost of delivery services by reducing the distance that delivery drivers need to travel.

At Dephna, we’re passionate about giving back to the community, and our Whetstone site is a prime example of that. Once an abandoned Barclays Bank, we have worked tirelessly to turn it into a thriving hub that benefits the local communityBook a viewing today. 

by Dephna

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