As many employees refuse to return to the office, more and more developers are considering turning former workplaces into apartment complexes.
America’s metros face two crises simultaneously: housing shortages and empty office buildings that leave local businesses destitute.
But researchers say office conversions could revitalize central business districts and increase housing availability nationwide.
Among the buildings being transformed is 55 Broad Street in Manhattan’s Financial District, which was once home to Goldman Sachs.
It should be transformed into 571 apartments and will include a rooftop swimming pool and coworking spaces.
In Washington, the old State Department building has been transformed into a building called The Wray, photo
The Wray, pictured, has 158 studios and one- and two-bedroom units. Each one-bedroom unit is 482 square feet and rents for $2,627
A two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit is 706 square feet and rents for $3,942. Pictured: The Wray Building in Washington, DC
The project is led by architect John Cetra and his firm Cetra Ruddy.
He told Business Insider, “It almost turns the building into a club, and the club gives you all these amenities, and part of club membership includes an apartment.”
“I think the whole social aspect has become a big issue.”
Steven Paynter, an expert in office-to-residential conversions at architectural firm Gensler, said the trend has been accelerated by a growing acceptance of the work-from-home culture.
“Probably over the last nine months everybody’s been like, ‘Okay, now we have to get serious about it,'” Paynter told Insider.
“Everyone sort of understands that we’ve kind of reached a plateau, a new normal, in terms of downtown occupancy.”
Experts are now calling on governments to relax zoning and access rights to facilitate more developments.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a new initiative to speed up conversions with a proposed rule change. This would free up an additional 136 million square feet of office space, helping Adams achieve its goal of creating up to 20,000 new homes for 40,000 citizens.
It marks a sea change in attitude for Adams, who was previously a staunch critic of working from home and once insisted that “you can’t stay home in your pajamas all day”.
Among the buildings being transformed is 55 Broad Street in Manhattan’s Financial District, which was once home to Goldman Sachs, pictured.
San Francisco and Washington DC have also seen many of their major office buildings converted into residential housing.
In Washington, the old State Department building has been transformed into an apartment building called The Wray.
It includes 158 studios and one- and two-bedroom units. Each one-bedroom unit is 482 square feet and rents for $2,627.
A two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit is 706 square feet and rents for $3,942.
Meanwhile, office-to-housing conversions have been touted as a way to save downtown San Francisco, gutted by WFH culture.
However, city architects say high construction costs and delays in approval processes mean this trend has been slow to take off.
Additionally, downtown San Francisco has been the target of skyrocketing crime rates, which means many homebuyers are not keen on living there.
Blosziers told Insider: “I’ve been in the remodeling, retrofitting, and remodeling of large buildings for about 30 years, and we thought our phones were going to ring non-stop, but it’s not.
Overall, the architects say conversions can be expensive – meaning only the most affluent homebuyers can afford them.
“You can’t assume everyone will be a 27-year-old banker who can afford it,” Cetra said.