Shifting Empty Spaces
As we move into the post-Covid world, it is becoming more apparent that more change has taken place every day than we realize. Smaller stores are popping up that strongly cater to each neighborhood. The bigger stores sit empty, priced at the same rent pre-Covid. Essentially, there is still a disconnect between commercial real estate owners and the reality of life. There might not have been a complete downturn in the economy yet, but Covid didn’t make the changes needed to change when it comes to real estate. Perhaps inflation will. Stores, restaurants, and offices were already paying too much to survive, a check was poorly needed, but it still hasn’t happened.
The belief that people will return to the office five days a week is a fallacy. Some might, but Covid showed all of us that we can get our work done anywhere and that owning our personal lives is key to life balance, particularly if you have a family. The predominantly commercial areas were the worst hit. Midtown is still a shadow of its former self.
Post 9/11, downtown NYC shifted the zoning laws. There was a tax abatement program for developers to convert commercial spaces into residential spaces—people living or working in spaces fuel the economy, particularly in each neighborhood. Hoping people will come back to work five days a week is ridiculous. Shifting zoning now and giving builders incentives to balance communities with residents would be a step in the right direction.
There is a lack of affordable housing. How can a teacher, fireperson, nurse, mechanic, construction worker, or artist afford to live in the city? We must work on new zoning, stop building more office buildings and focus on diversifying midtown with residents.