“The biggest and most enduring change in our economic geography ushered in by the pandemic turns out to be far less in where and how we live, and much more about how and where we work” writes Richard Florida for Bloomberg CityLab.
A year ago, experts feared a mass exit from urban areas. Now our cities are reawakening and buzzing with activity. But the story of Central Business Districts, with their massed skyscrapers, is not the same. Before the pandemic, according to EY Forensic Data and the Urban Land Institute (ULI), 100 million square meters of office space in 21 of the world’s major business districts housed 4.5 million workers. In April 2020, fourteen of those cities had enforced lockdowns, reducing that workforce by 3.5 million. Recent data from Kastle Systems, who count workers entering offices via key cards and similar technologies, shows that in 10 major US CBDs only 27 percent have returned.
As more people are vaccinated, more workers are likely to return to the office. But fear – of working in a busy office or riding a crowded elevator or public transit – could remain a factor in the return to the central business district. Subway ridership in New York is still at a mere 40 percent of pre-Covid numbers. Economist Nik Bloom and colleagues project that 21.3 percent of workers will continue to work remotely and that an over-supply of office space will lead to a significant reduction in consumer spending in the supporting economic ecosystems like restaurants, bars and stores as well as a reduction in cleaning, security and other service jobs.
While businesses continue to embrace remote work, the challenge for downtowns will be to adapt. Central Business Districts have great attributes – they’re centrally located, dense with architecture and full of useful infrastructure. There’s already an appetite for neighborhoods with a mix of live, work and play that are walkable, bikeable and have good transit. City centers might just be the perfect places to make new and vibrant, urban neighborhoods. With careful planning, they could also be planned as more equitable and inclusive places.
“We have a once-in-a-century opportunity to turn our business districts and our cities into something better, less divided, and more inclusive. Shame on us if we fail to grasp it.”
Read the original article here.
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