I remember, in the early 1970s, wondering about the impact of widespread telecommuting on CBDs (Central Business Districts). How might the CBDs be transformed by that? What would the CBD’s roles be then?
But my first priority in 1973 was to discover whether telecommuting worked at all in the real world; never mind the chances of millions of home-based telecommuters suddenly popping into existence.
I recall drafting a paper on the optimum size of cities being around 500K-800K population. My reasoning was that this mid-size could preserve most of the key characteristics of big cities without all the nasty side effects like traffic congestion, air pollution, etc. Those key characteristics included a large enough tax base (based on property) to provide basic services including transit plus art and entertainment centers and other facilities that tend to make a place unique. The paper remained as a draft and I never got it published.
Continue reading Telework and City centers: imagining the futures
Since I last checked on the post-Covid impact on central offices, the trend appears to be stabilizing. It appears that, nation-wide, chronic central city office vacancies are running about 50%. And there’s the rub. The situation may be fine for telecommuters and their employers but it’s bad news for the commercial real estate business and for the impacted cities themselves. A fix for central cities clearly is needed.
This situation is a result not of fear of covid but of the attraction of telecommuting. Well-paid, that is valuable, information workers prefer to work from home at least half-time. And they are insisting on it. Their employers have discovered that their bottom line actually does improve rather than suffer when their staff telecommutes at least part time.
In addition to the productivity jump, part of this improvement is the result of reduced facility costs. Downtown office space is expensive so the best strategy is to use as little of it as is necessary. Sometimes a wait is required before renewing/dropping the lease for space but the reduction is clearly happening.
What to do?
Continue reading Telework and Fixing the central City
It’s time to review some of my comments of 2020 in light of recent events. So here is an account of city centers revisited: updated to 2022. I said in 2020 that there would be an exodus of office workers from city centers for two reasons: covid-19 and the ease of teleworking. Indeed that happened worldwide. City centers that normally were bustling became deserted even in mid-weeks. I also predicted that, as Covid-19 dangers eased, some office workers would come back to their former offices full time — but most would not. So far that prediction has held in 2022.
Here’s some of what has happened, as reported by various news media.
Continue reading City centers updated
Thanks to the pandemic, acceptance of telework has become a tide that is changing many other things. It has washed out the status quo antes in many industries that once were highly centralized. A full return to that status quo, highly prized by many senior executives, is becoming less likely every day.
And then there are the side effects, some of which I have touched on in earlier posts. Some may be revising the shape of cities and transportation practices. Hopefully, one side effect is a decrease in global warming. Here are some thoughts.
Continue reading The telework tide is changing everything else