A Data-driven Plan to Convert Empty Offices into Lively Residences

Originally published on July 6, 2023 by Marie Rugg for NAIOP.

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic caused massive disruption to office work as usual. Companies that had been cautiously optimistic going into 2020 experienced dramatic upheaval just a few months in as stay-at-home orders transitioned to longer-lasting changes in where and how people work. Cities and municipalities worldwide continue to grapple with the question of how to handle office space sitting idle in formerly bustling central business districts.

In a recent NAIOP webinar, Gensler Principal Steven Paynter, OAA, ARB, explored the firm’s data-driven process for analyzing underused office spaces and determining how to transform them into vibrant and livable residential buildings.

At the end of 2019, Gensler had talked to their clients about their outlook on the year ahead and any concerns they had about the coming year. Many clients said their Class A office buildings had 1-2% vacancies; however, their Class B and Class C office buildings weren’t doing as well, even with upgrades and added amenities. In the chaos of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gensler examined in depth how they could help to stabilize and rebuild their clients’ confidence in their portfolios and protect the value of their assets.

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