Office Space Shrinkage: Good and Bad for D.C.
It's a well-known fact in commercial real estate circles: Tenants are doing more with less. Gone are the days of law firm associates doing cartwheels in their offices, and getting a secretary as soon as they made partner. The floorplates of the future squish dozens of offices into spaces that before held just handfulls, and some companies have forgone offices altogether, throwing their employees into a sea of open desks (sometimes, they don't have desks of their own at all).
Here's a particularly dramatic example: Last week, GlobeSt.com reported on a study showing that only 60 percent of the General Services Administration's space in D.C. was being used at any given time. The phenomenon was perhaps most pronounced at GSA's own headquarters at 1800 F Street NW, which the study found could accommodate 6,200 employees, up from the 1,800 that work there currently. That worries landlords, since they're in the business of leasing more space, not less.
What could this mean for D.C.'s office districts? Potentially a lot, as tenants move around and spaces get re-configured. The Office of Planning has been studying the potential impact of increased employee density, and there could be an upside: More people working downtown means more activity on the street and business for ground-floor businesses. On the other hand, it could also mean less opportunity for outlying areas that could use some daytime activity and office tenants to jump-start stalled projects, like Congress Heights or the Capitol Riverfront.
I'm betting that the benefits outweigh the costs, though. If businesses and non-profits figure they get more for their money in D.C., they might expand when they otherwise wouldn't, or keep people here instead of starting a satellite office in Virginia. Meanwhile, those Class B office buildings that nobody wants could be redeveloped as condos or apartments, continuing the trend of a more mixed-use downtown.
Something to think about when you get booted from your cushy office into a cramped cubicle, at least.
Floorplate layout of PNC Place, 800 17th Street NW.