xi's moments
Home | Americas

US cities cope with vacant offices, cajax ucl captainrime

Shenzhou XV | ajax ucl captain | Updated: 2024-07-14 22:03:57

In San Francisco's Chinatown, Thomas Tam, owner of Dragon Seed, a custom dress shop, sits behind his counter, observing pedestrians pass by his store. The street outside, once bustling with locals and tourists, now sees only occasional passersby on weekdays.

Dragon Seed, specializing in handmade traditional dresses, has been a Chinatown fixture since 1982. Tam's exquisite qipao dresses have graced the winners of the annual Miss Chinatown USA pageant.

"What a pity people can't see these beautiful outfits," said Tam, looking at the shop windows hidden behind wooden panels — a pandemic-era precaution that shields businesses from attacks or robberies.

Tam received only a few orders this summer, usually the shop's busiest season. "It's the lack of foot traffic since the pandemic," he told China Daily. "People switch to online shopping and would not come downtown for shopping."

It is the same next door for Terry Luk, owner of Pacific Printing: reduced foot traffic and shifting consumer habits. Established decades ago, Luk's print shop has relied heavily on printing menus for restaurants, an industry hit hard by the pandemic.

The closure of numerous restaurants, his main clientele, has left the business struggling. "Luckily, I own the property, otherwise I would not be able to afford the rent," Luk said.

The plight of the Chinatown businesses mirrors the broader challenges facing the downtowns of San Francisco and neighboring Oakland.

But this downward trajectory isn't unique to California cities. Many downtowns across the US are grappling with similar issues. Nearly four years after the pandemic outbreak, office workers and foot traffic remain scarce.

Retail has undergone a fundamental shift, with online shopping becoming the norm. Many cities are also battling crime, drug addiction and homelessness.

The exodus of tech companies from traditional office spaces, coupled with a shift toward hybrid work models, has left downtown San Francisco quiet on weekdays. The city's overall office vacancy rate stood at 36.8 percent in the second quarter, according to data from real estate firm CBRE.

The neighboring city of Oakland tells a similar tale of woe: Empty storefronts dot the business district, and three prominent office towers are in foreclosure.

The lack of weekday foot traffic in downtown areas has left merchants struggling, while rising property crimes and burglaries have fueled a growing sense of unease in Oakland.

The city has seen robberies rising 11 percent, with residential robberies soaring by 118 percent, according to police data in May. In the first four months of 2024 alone, the city experienced more than 1,000 robberies, casting a long shadow over the downtown's recovery.

Oakland's downtown office-vacancy rate hit 21.2 percent in the first quarter this year, a sharp increase from 8.8 percent in 2019 before the pandemic, according to CBRE data.

An October report by Philadelphia's Center City District, "Downtowns Rebound", highlights the varying rates of worker return across different cities in the United States. Those with industries dependent on face-to-face interactions, such as entertainment, hospitality, leisure, and food services, have seen a stronger rebound.

Conversely, cities like Denver, Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, with a significant presence in the tech sector, have experienced a slower recovery due to the prevalence of remote work. Those cities see a work-from-home average of 2.55 days per week, the report said.

Data from security company Kastle Systems echoes the changing workplace landscape. To identify trends in how workers are returning to the office, the company uses daily security card swipes to measure office occupancy rates, with more than 300,000 users in 10 select cities in the United States.

Nationally, the average occupancy rate is 51.4 percent, with the lowest in San Jose metro at 37.5 percent, followed by Philadelphia and San Francisco at 41.8 percent and 43.5 percent, respectively, according to Kastle's Back to Work Barometer, updated on July 1.

The data shows that occupancy is much lower on Mondays and Fridays, with a low of 33.3 percent on Fridays and a peak of 61.2 percent on Tuesdays.

The Downtown Recovery project at the University of Toronto further emphasizes that trend. The researchers' analysis of mobile device-location data in March reveals that all North American downtowns have exhibited a greater decrease in activity levels during working hours, reflecting a trend toward remote work.

Comparing May 2023 with May 2024, the researchers found that 27 downtowns were in an upward trajectory, while 37 were trending down.

"Whether in public safety, workplace practices, or by diversifying downtown land use, the last three years are a profound reminder that successful cities will be those that respond best to challenges and reshape themselves for new realities," Paul R. Levy, the chief executive of Philadelphia's Center City District, concluded in an article looking at the recovery of US downtowns.

liazhu@chinadailyusa.com

Shenzhou
rk
Global Edition
BACK TO THE TOP
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349