„Basel-Stadt: Land of Opportunity“

Image: Mark Niedermann for Basel Area Business & Innovation

"113 Hectares of Opportunity" was the title that the architectural journal Hochparterre had coined for a feature about the Canton of Basel-Stadt in autumn 2019 – the opportunity being the city’s many vast and centrally located transformation and development areas. That has not changed a bit: On the basis of its eminently positive economic development in recent years and excellent long-term prospects, the business location Basel-Stadt continues to offer plenty of opportunities – despite the current uncertainty caused by the COVID-19- pandemic.

For a number of years, Basel-Stadt has held the rank of one of Switzerland’s most dynamic business regions; local employment growth and value creation have been outstanding. The situation was mirrored in the market for economic areas in Basel-Stadt: up until the end of 2019 its defining characteristics were a relatively stable und low level of vacancies, few available large rentals and areas, as well as a solid demand by local companies.

View enlarged image
Figure - Development of vacancies and economic areas in Basel-Stadt by square meters (Source: Office for Statistics of the Canton of Basel-Stadt)

In the course of 2020, there has been increasing evidence that Basel-Stadt is about to face stronger movements in the economic area market. Large units of office space have become available, and substantial market shifts are taking place. The range of available options has broadened accordingly, including top-notch and centrally located modern office space (Baloise Park, Meret Oppenheim Hochhaus, Grosspeter-Tower), new and attractive co-working spaces on offer (Spaces, Westhive, Flexoffice, Impact Hub Basel), new office and laboratory rentals at Stücki Park, available construction lots located in Zone 7 (Volta Nord), rental space for trade and commerce (Elsässerstrasse, Hochbergerstrasse) and first-time available objects in existing buildings on the areas Rosental Mitte and Klybeckplus. The large transformation areas in particular will experience the addition of exciting and innovative options for office space in the coming years.  

From the perspective of the business location Basel-Stadt, an increase in available economic area inventory is a welcome reversal of the market drought in recent years. Companies can now choose from a supply of attractive options for large-area settlements and relocations.

On the demand side, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the region into increased uncertainty. The exact extent of the impact of the Corona crisis on the local economy cannot be accurately predicted at present time. This uncertainty notwithstanding, Basel-Stadt continues to be in a pronouncedly advantageous position compared to other Swiss business sites, given its highly attractive location benefits in light of a recent corporate tax reform and its generally forward-looking, future-oriented industrial composition and infrastructure.

Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has also re-launched the discussion about the nature and future of office work in general. One hypothesis holds that the crisis might well initiate a fundamental shift towards increased use of virtual and online communications from the home office with the consequence of strongly reduced demand for commercial office space. However, scenarios that predict the end of the office culture are not new. As experience has shown, such developments rather take hold gradually than as a momentous paradigm change (due to long-term rental agreements, existing contracts as well as to a deeply engrained aspects of corporate culture). In the years ahead we will find out if companies are able to do largely without benefits such as high degrees of innovation, collaboration and interconnected knowledge economy as offered by a location like Basel-Stadt. In our opinion it is definitely too early for a solid and sustainable judgment call in this matter.

View enlarged image
Availability rates for office space in European cities 2019 (JLL Office Market Switzerland 2020)

A great example for the paramount importance of available large spaces, especially for innovation at the location of Basel-Stadt, is the expansion of the Stücki Park area. Construction of its laboratory building with around 6‘000 m2 usable lab space is scheduled to be completed by autumn 2020, and yet the space is already fully leased to Lonza who are intent on expanding their presence at the Stücki Park location. This is solid evidence for the fact that not only start-ups and young entrepreneurs in the Life Sciences rely on highly specialised real estate for research & development, but that innovative spaces and ground-breaking operational concepts are providing interesting business models and opportunities for large corporate clients as well.