Many people are transforming rooms in their homes into home offices, but some people are transforming commercial spaces into homes.
Unused and Vacant
Today, CNN reports that outdoor retailer REI is selling their newly finished unused 8-acre corporate campus in Bellevue, WA as they redefine their experience of “headquarters.” Their new model they say will make remote working the “normalized model” for headquarters employees and the future headquarters building will be instead multiple satellite campuses in the Seattle area.
Businesses all over the US are seeing what REI is seeing and adjusting their business models. Office building occupancies are going down in the downtown areas of large cities across the US primarily because of the effect of the coronavirus pandemic and its associated lockdowns. Businesses are either moving, transitioning to remote working, or closing altogether. Landlords of downtown office buildings in big cities are in danger of losing the income from their properties as companies move to small communities or have their staff work from home. If the landlord has a mortgage and cannot keep up with their payments, they could lose the building. These buildings are then left vacant.
According to STR, a global hospitality data and analytics firm, hotels are suffering as well. Their data show that a fifth of hotel properties are still closed and have been since March. Many of these hotels will not survive the pandemic.
This devastating business and economic situation may offer a sliver of optimism if we look at investing in converting office buildings and hotels into much needed housing.
According to an article in realtor.com (https://www.realtor.com/news/trends/office-hotel-conversions-to-housing/) office buildings and hotels in urban downtowns are attractive for conversions to apartment housing because they have wifi and cable infrastructure in place, parking areas, and common areas. While offices will require more plumbing to provide bathrooms and perhaps kitchens to each apartment, hotels can be converted less expensively because they are already divided into individual spaces with individual bathrooms.
Creating Affordable Housing
One example of a hotel converted to apartments is Plato’s Cave at 3524 Keetor St. in Branson Missouri. Repvblik (pronounced Republic) LLC, a Los Angeles based firm, converted a vacant six-building Days Inn into multi-family or workforce housing. The complex includes studio apartments, renting for $495.00 a month, and one-bedroom apartments, renting for $695.00 a month. According to its website, https://www.platos-cave.com/pictures-of-units, the complex incudes a gym, commercial kitchen, large dining area, an outdoor pool and beach volleyball on the property. There is plenty of parking and it is right on the strip within walking distance to the jobs there. It is affordable housing that is so badly needed.
Living and working in crowded downtowns were very popular until the pandemic hit these communities so hard. It is not clear how many people will be willing to move back to crowded downtowns after the pandemic ends or if it lingers for years. It looks certain that there will be many vacant office buildings and hotels around by the end of 2021 or when long-term leases run out. Landlords will have to keep their prices in line with demand and it is too soon to tell what demand will be.
Too Early to Give Up
Clare Trapasso, the author of the article, “As the Pandemic Empties Office Buildings, Can Those Spaces Help Solve the Housing Crisis” says, “… it may be too early to write the obituary of urban office buildings and hotels, as many did in the wake of 9/11.”
However, development can drive what happens, so you might want to be thinking about a strategy to help cities, people in need of housing, and your own financial security by seriously studying the risks and rewards of converting vacant downtown office space and hotel space into affordable housing in your own city.
If you need funding, apply now. I am working online with the rest of you.
Patrick St. Cin
W – 512-213-2271
M – 505-239-3026
Trapasso, Clare, Realtor,com, As the Pandemic Empties Office Buildings, Can Those Spaces Help Solve the Housing Crisis, August 12, 2020. com (https://www.realtor.com/news/trends/office-hotel-conversions-to-housing/)
CNN, Leah Asmelash and Alison Kosik, August 13, 2020. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/outdoor-retailer-rei-to-sell-sprawling-new-and-unused-headquarters-to-shift-to-remote-work/ar-BB17VDuG?ocid=msedgdhp
Platos Cave website: https://www.platos-cave.com/property-tour
Picture of downtown, USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency / Public domain