Once upon a time, ambitious folks would move to large cities with the intention of making it big in their respective fields. It was considered vital to show up at a sprawling office building to collaborate with colleagues in person.
Of course, COVID-19 turned that tradition on its ear by making work-from-home options the norm.
Although it clearly has its upsides (I’m currently writing this article on my couch and enjoying a zero-mile daily commute), there seems to be one major casualty: the great American metropolis.
Downtown areas of cities across the U.S. and around the world have been sitting empty for years as online retail took increasingly large bites out of brick-and-mortar stores. But now, offices and entire floors of huge skyscrapers are still vacant after nearly three years of remote work.
In New York City’s once-booming financial sector, reports indicate that as of September just over half of its employees were present in an office on any given workday. On a national level, stats indicate that workers are currently occupying a mere 47% of the available office space.
Without people reporting to work, there are fewer reasons for consumers to walk around these commercial areas, thus resulting in a spiral of lost sales and tanking tax revenue in big cities.
Since the structures already exist and there’s no sign that workers are going to returning any time soon, some developers want to transform office buildings into residences. Such plans sound good on the surface, but would require significant modification to adapt the plumbing and electricity for the needs of a residential building.
In the meantime, some commercial landlords are pursuing efforts to turn vacant buildings into public gyms, storage facilities, and even movie sets.