Real Estate

Commercial real estate crisis: Downtowns are dead, dying or on life support, says urban policy expert

The hollowing out of U.S. cities’ office and commercial cores is a national trend with serious consequences for millions of Americans. As more people have stayed home following the COVID-19 pandemic, foot traffic has fallen. Major retail chains are closing stores, and even prestigious properties are having a hard time retaining tenants.

The shuttering of a Whole Foods market after only a year in downtown San Francisco in May 2023 received widespread coverage. Even more telling was the high-end department store Nordstrom’s decision to close its flagship store there in August after a 35-year run.

In New York City, office vacancy rates have risen by over 70% since 2019. Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a stretch of high-end shops and restaurants, had a 26% vacancy rate in spring 2023.

A recent study from the University of Toronto found that across North America, downtowns are recovering from the pandemic more slowly than

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