#SanFrancisco #RemoteWork #downtowns #WorkPatternsChange

Three years ago, San Francisco’s business district was bustling.

Tech workers were heading in and out of train stations by the droves.

People rushed to grab lunch at a favorite salad bar.

Visitors crowded the sidewalks when a big conference was in town.

Today, San Francisco may be the most deserted big-city downtown in America.

Conor Dougherty and Emma Goldberg explored this in an article for The New York Times.

It was also published December 29, 2022, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Occupancy of the city’s offices is roughly is roughly 7 percentage points below that of those in the average major American city,” the article quotes Kastle, a building security firm.

Because San Francisco’s economy revolves around the tech industry, and those workers have found the idea of working remotely appealing, in any given week, office buildings are at about 40 percent of their pre-pandemic occupancy, the article says.

It’s been almost like sport to predict how remote work would affect many things. This article shows what can happen when people go home to work, and don’t come back.

In another article published a few days later, Zachary Hansen, development reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, wrote about how Atlanta’s older office buildings are being, if not deserted, emptying out. The article attributes that to more remote working and moving to newer office spaces. The private sector and the city are working together to convert some of that old office space into housing, the article says.

The good news: the more people who work from home, the fewer people are on the roads commuting. The bad news: businesses who thrived on busy downtown areas are closing. The Times article talks about one owner of a salad shop who has moved her store to the suburbs, because many of those remote workers still like to grab a quick salad for lunch.

This phenomenon could bring about many trends, as has been discussed. Your employer could be based in place X, where living expenses are high. (San Francisco is a classic example of that).

But, because of technology, you could do your job from anywhere, preferably a less expensive location, and live there.

Or, you could work from your favorite vacation spot.

Regardless, the downside could be big-city downtowns becoming relatively deserted. Another downside is the loss of face-to-face contact with colleagues, clients etc.

With the shortage of affordable housing just about everywhere, some of these office buildings could be repurposed, as Hansen’s article says. But, if that’s done, the owners and builders of those buildings may not see the return on investment they had expected for a good long time.

The live-work-play concept may gain even greater popularity, because it might give people the best of both worlds – working from home with easy access to the office as needed, with all the amenities and necessities of life within the same complex.

Fear not, however. SOMEONE will find a way to turn this downtown problem into a solution that will benefit all concerned. Atlanta seems to be out in front of that trend.

One’s imagination could think of a downtown that’s active, fun, but not overcrowded. No traffic gridlock is visible. Individuals saving money either by not commuting at all, or commuting less.

Change is no longer coming, it’s here. How can you best take advantage of it?