National studies project major shifts in office use post-pandemic, but a few Eugene / Springfield sources suggest the changes here may be less dramatic than in big cities.
A recent Pew Research Center poll found just over half of people who can work from home would like to continue to after the pandemic. And the Real Estate Board in New York City is proposing to turn a million square feet of office space into housing because of changes they anticipate.
What about the local market? Mia Cariaga is the Central Services Director for the City of Eugene, the area’s fourth largest employer. She said, “We have about half of our employees coming into work, and that covers everything from the airport to EMS and fire workers, and some folks that are providing forward-facing services like our municipal court staff.”
Cariaga expects nearly everyone will return to their offices when it’s safe to do so.
Christian Fox is a property manager who’s seen some striking changes the past nine months. He told KLCC, “I have five story building that three stories are effectively vacant. And there’s hardly anybody there, it’s kind of freaky in a way to have a building so unoccupied when it’s usually bustling with activity.”
Fox said rather than being concerned about empty spaces, building owners are taking advantage of the downtime.
“The property owners themselves have elected to pursue some big projects for improvements that might have been planned for, say, next summer," he said, "and now they’re saying let’s just do it now, since hardly anybody’s using the building. So, like elevator modernizations, remodeling suites and common areas, those things have been going on around town a lot.”
While Fox is worried about retail businesses closing, especially restaurants, he’s less concerned about offices. He noted, “I am now seeing, as I hear from others, kind of an uptick in people pursuing office. I think everybody’s starting to feel like, you know with the vaccinations close to rolling out maybe by the beginning of second quarter of ’21 we’re going to see a little more normalization of activity.”
Neil Langlois is a CPA with Jones and Roth in Eugene. He said in order to enable working from home, businesses sped up their technology adoption because, “The money was there to make those investments, and the need. The necessity brings ingenuity, right? There’s been this huge shift in ability now for people to work from all over, and there will forevermore be a higher tolerance for it.”
Langlois said while he expects telework to be a viable option ongoing, he hasn’t had any clients alert him they’re letting their leases expire.