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  • jerry woods

Hybrid Work is Changing Downtowns

If you’ve stood on the right block in the Golden Triangle district of Washington, D.C., or inside the Loop in Chicago, or San Francisco’s Financial District at 9 a.m. on any recent weekday, you might notice they are all like ghost towns. America’s downtowns have not recovered from COVID-19, and they won’t—at least not to what they were before the pandemic hit.

For two years, federal dollars have buoyed local governments, transit agencies, and downtown businesses. But as we enter the third year of the pandemic, we can see that more fundamental change is needed. The public and private entities that depend on downtown money are going to need a path to a new normal. The future may require office workers, residents, shoppers, visitors, tourists, students, and seniors to change their overall behavior.

People will still work in offices in many cities but after many went fully remote it looks like they may not be coming back.

For developers the long-term ramifications of remote work will mean serious design changes to current office buildings, repurposing old unused offices like turning them into residences as well as changing the technology that is necessary to build and attract new tenants to the future mixed-use and multifamily properties.

According to a recent Gallup poll, the majority of office workers prefer a hybrid model with some in-person work and that remote work. Even though the percentage of workers who will remain fully remote is relatively small, a large majority of office workers will likely be partly remote for the long haul. That has significant implications for employers and cities. Every owner or user of an office building is going to end up either paying the same or more for less usage of space or reconfiguring to use fewer square feet per worker.

So what should the new office look like? For office buildings, employers and landlords, and developers the new inspiration in all of these sectors may look like places where people like to do independent work: libraries, campuses, and coffee shops.

Employers will have to provide homelike features for workers: comfort (e.g., furniture and dress code) and care (e.g., food and personalization). Commercial-real-estate innovators such as WeWork or Industrious, which have mainstreamed new leasing models and floor plans that make it easy for not just multiple workers but multiple employers to share space, have already figured a lot of this out, and will continue to push the boundaries of what works.

The bottom line is that workers want to get out of their homes, but they do not want to return to the old office. Contact our team at

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