WHAT: At an urban scale, the effects of the pandemic are particularly visible in central business districts
(CBDs), where deserted streets and offices seem to be here to stay. Despite the progress of vaccination programs, occupancy rates remain low. In the USA’s 10 largest urban CBDs, visits by employees stand at 27% of pre-pandemic levels. The future of mono-functional urban areas is being challenged by the delocalisation of companies and an increase in remote working. Will CBDs become the industrial areas of the 80s? Already governments are working on solutions to repurpose empty buildings. The South Korean government has announced it will buy empty hotels and offices and transform them into 114,000 homes. Singapore is also pushing a plan to convert offices and excess car parks into residences, shops, restaurants, and even indoor farms.
SO WHAT: The loss of attraction of CBDs shows the demand from workers for more flexible and creative
workplaces. In a post-pandemic world, remote working doesn’t only mean “home-office”. Instead, “the office of the future will likely be less a single building in a single location (…) It is evolving into a ‘network of spaces and services tied together with technology’.” Because of their central locations in dense urban areas, the transformation of CBDs also needs to serve the management of social and environmental challenges met by cities.