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Bye, bye, bye……When Downtowns Turn Into Ghost Towns

If there’s no one to buy a $15 Sweetgreen salad and bring it back to their desk to eat all alone, does downtown even exist? A jump in remote/hybrid work post-Covid could threaten central business districts in places like Boston and San Francisco, where office space makes up 70%–80% of downtown real estate, per a new study from the NYT’s Upshot with CoStar. 
The threat is real: Even as some large banks push employees back into NYC skyscrapers, 74% of Fortune 500 CEOs around the country are looking to cut office space. In downtown DC, daytime population took a nosedive, dropping 82% from February 2020 to February 2021.
The takeaway: Not all US downtowns are equally vulnerable to a tumbleweed-rolling-across-the-street future. Cities like San Diego and Nashville that have a more balanced makeup of residential, retail, and office space in their central districts could be more resilient coming out of the pandemic. But cities that aren’t as balanced will need to get creative in repurposing office space to avoid widespread vacancies and lower property tax revenue.
Written by Jamie WildeMatty Merritt, and Neal Freyman
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