Urban Planning Think Tanks believe that with businesses needing less floor space and less commercial property used, state and local governments will need to do more to attract people to the city centers in which they are located. have already invested heavily.After emphasizing the importance of commerce and nightlife in reviving CBD economies, measures to shape the long-term future of city centers include subsidies or rent controls and the introduction of more. of public spaces in crowded areas, to turn CBD into destinations for entertainment, rather than work, in post-Covid-19 Australian cities.
In April, 42% of Sydney’s office real estate needs were on hold, and in July, mobile data collected for the Sydney CBD showed foot traffic was down 52% in January. The drop was 65% in Melbourne’s CBD before the introduction of their fourth lockdown stage.
Homeworking Covid-19 has been predicted to take a $ 10 billion blow to the $ 142 billion Sydney CBD is expected to generate in 2020, including a $ 3 billion drop in productivity due to an estimated loss interactions between skilled workers who meet in unexpected ways. and collaborate.
While Sydney and Melbourne’s movement and finance figures include varying degrees of community transmission, the Guardian understands that similar, as yet unpublished figures show movement data in the Perth CBD – in one of the states. least affected by distancing requirements – in August account for around 50% of pre-pandemic figures.
Tony McGough, senior lecturer in real estate at RMIT, says figures from Perth, as well as overseas cities that have eased Covid-19 restrictions, show work habits are unlikely to return to five days per week in an office.
“Suddenly, a lot of work can be done at home, and once you get that idea in their head, it stays.”
He believes workers alternating between a day in the office and a day at home will be a mainstay of the future work culture – a trend that could almost halve the demand for office space.
“The risks in property are increasing massively, especially for offices and businesses,” says McGough. “The drop in foot traffic is not only bad for the offices, but for the cafe that all the workers have been to, and all of those businesses.
“There will be a surge towards quality, so the best buildings will hold up, but that will mean pieces of office space, they might start to consider rezoning some of them as residential.”
He predicts that retail and worker-focused businesses and their before and after work habits, and during lunch breaks, will move to the high streets of the suburbs. He also says that “the rationale will have to change” for large malls, in cities and suburbs, to rely less on retail – Australians having become more comfortable with e-commerce. during the pandemic.
However, McGough says it will take around two years for the physical landscape of a CBD to change, for the construction of office buildings to stop from lack of demand and change the makeup of a city.
Mike Harris, an urban architecture scholar at the University of New South Wales, believes Covid-19 will have a lasting impact on work culture and CBD.
However, he says working from home goes totally against human nature and points to predictions of a move to home offices when the internet blew up and never happened. He also says technological constraints, including Australia’s internet capabilities, mean that not all companies can dissolve their premises.
Harris notes the recent announcement by tech giant Atlassian of its new headquarters in central Sydney as an example of what future office development will look like as it devotes more space to leisure and business. other uses.
According to him, the ease of access to the CBD, given that transportation systems are designed to get commuters there every day, means governments “will want to contain the commercial heart of the city.”
If office buildings are not fully occupied, authorities could aim to “bring the next wave of creatives and startups,” those who are traditionally pushed into cheaper parts of cities, into corporate spaces using l rent assistance.
“This could be a good opportunity to reverse gentrification patterns,” he says. “It’s about understanding the diversity in a city, which is ultimately a good thing. If they don’t do more to fill buildings, the economy loses out on businesses that shut down and depend on workers.
While Harris believes Australian cities are “far enough away from tearing down” office buildings as they are, future CBD buildings will likely consider new work and health-conscious habits.
He points out how trails were widened and more parks built in the wake of the cholera outbreak in 19th century New York City, and says a good test of whether similar movements could occur in Australia will be if one long-discussed plan to build a plaza opposite Sydney’s Town Hall arrives.
“The government is scared of the idea of fewer buildings because it is a visual sign of decline,” says Harris. “So it has to be done strategically, so it attracts people as a public space.”
Gabriel Metcalf, the committee’s managing director for Sydney, says he’s optimistic Sydney’s CBD “will come back better than ever, but it’s likely it will have to evolve in some way.”
“Office buildings may need to be modernized to serve more of a purpose of gathering and collaboration rather than just providing workspace,” he says. “Shopping malls may need to change even more to experience products as opposed to products that can be purchased online.
“The streets will have to support a better quality of public life, with things like sidewalk cafes, instead of being so oriented towards car traffic.”