I have resided in SW France since 2019 but have frequented San Francisco, Chicago, Tampa and Houston during numerous post-pandemic visits.
It is very sad to see the prevailing “ghost town”experience in North and South of San Francisco’s CBD.
Not only has it been effected by technolgy employees exodus to work remotely, but employees of other sectors too. The impact has forced closures of retail that serviced that base.
Is this a transitional phase, and will the vibrancy return as employers/employees balance return to work versus remote working solutions?
I think the challenge is deeper – without ammenity the worker will be reluctant to return and the retailer can not survive without that base.
I have advocated as far back as thirty years ago that the future office building design, environment and make up has to change.
Owners have continued to pour millions of dollars into expansive, cold, hard-surface lobbies with little functional utility – reminiscent of a mausoleum.
Progressive ownership should look at the success of the Fulton Market area in Chicago and in particular its adaptive resuse of former structures. Smart investment and meeting goals for sustainability.
How inviting is a building lobby that replicates the one designed by the Hoxton Hotel Group.
Warm, inviting, multi-purpose and perhaps further adapted to include visitor working space and of course encompassing security and access to other floors.
A future mix that will take into consideration less emphasis on office space and incorporate floors for hospitality and residential use with a combination of for sale condomium and rental apartment units. Common floors that offer shared conferencing and meeting space; well being and fitness and even healthcare services creating a mini-city environment within an existing structure. I realize this creates code and zoning issues but believe the jurisdictions will become a advocate and partner from a realization of tax revenue implications.
Hospitality will be a favored investment class in the immediate future and as affordability of home ownership due to interest rate spikes creates increased demand for rentals multi-family will continue as another favored investment class.
Finally, I’ve always advocated office buildings should be managed like a well run hotel – if I’m right in my observation this could create greater co-investment opportunity between office/hotel owner/operator investors.
There never is one solution but I believe a new form of muti-use in existing office builfings will create conducive environments to contribute towards the re-population of challenged CBD’s
Robert is the Founding Principal of Bespoke Real Estate Advisors, a global real estate advisory company.
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