Manhattan’s office occupancy is showing signs of improvement

How Empty or Filled Are Manhattan Office Buildings? Welcome to the “Twilight Zone”.

The “workers at their desks” situation recalls a famous episode from the classic TV show where a time warp sends a plane back to the dinosaur era. The pilot flies back in the jetstream, hoping to make it back to 1961 New York – but they only make it to 1939.

We are still a long way from achieving pre-pandemic occupancy. But the signs of recovery are promising.

Manhattan’s office occupancy averaged between 53 and 55 percent on weekdays, according to the Partnership for New York City, which is expected to announce the results of its latest survey this week.

If speculation holds, it will be a Significant symbolic as well as real progress That reported more than 49 percent for September, according to Katherine Wild, CEO and president of the partnership.

Wild said that based on the latest numbers, employers and landlords expect 57 percent occupancy by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the Lowballing Castle Systems Back to Work Barometer The “NY Metro” number (which also includes the suburbs and the Pennsylvania portion) is half full at 49.5 percent, the highest estimate to date.

No one really knows the whole score, as there are a lot of fudge factors and missing links trying to measure a market of nearly half a billion square feet.

Times Square Street Sign
In the years before the pandemic, many workers enjoyed WFH at least part-time, particularly in the tech, creative and media sectors.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

The gap between pre-pandemic and current office attendance may be somewhat less wide than any data suggests.

Why? Today’s obsession with busyness begins with the fantasy that offices were 100 percent occupied before March 2020. But a few years ago, many workers enjoyed WFH at least part-time, especially in the tech, creative and media sectors.

The partnership bases its data on surveys of key tenants. Kastel only counts entry swipes in buildings where it provides security services.

The Partnership’s attendance estimates seem low compared to claims by major landlords that their buildings are more than 60 per cent occupied – and compared to our own observations.

NYC skyline
The lack of office attendance led to the elimination of dozens of stores and even the restaurant Hillstone on the once-thriving Third Avenue.
Edmund J Koppa

Midtown Sixth Avenue towers look almost full Based on our highly unscientific technique of looking at them from our windows. The restaurants are buzzing. Customers line up again for Eddie’s shoe shine in the Rockefeller Center Concourse.

The same can’t be said about struggling Third Avenue, where the lack of office attendance led to the elimination of dozens of stores and even the once-flourishing restaurant Hillstone.

Kastel’s 49.5 percent figure may actually be too high for less-than-stellar buildings. Its count of mostly A-minus and Class-B buildings leaves out many older, smaller Class-B-minus buildings with low physical occupancy.

Time will tell whether the uptrend signals a roaring recovery, a passing blip, or something in between. We’ll bet on the high middle ground as employers crack down on the excesses of WFH — and as remote workers understand that when layoffs come, they’re the first to go.

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