Memphis aims to keep downtown offices full amidst transition to remote working

Published: Sep. 26, 2021 at 9:40 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of day-to-day life.

From a long-term perspective, it’s changed how large businesses choose to operate -- due in part to the trend of remote working and virtual office environments -- leaving vacancies in downtown areas.

The New York Times reports that nearly 20% of Manhattan office space is vacant.

Companies are consolidating work spaces to save money with employees opting to work more from home.

In Memphis, large office spaces are hard to find tenants for, but the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) tells us major employers aren’t looking to go fully remote.

“Autozone, FedEx, Terminix, they delayed their plans to return tot he office, but they still have plans to return,” said Paul Young, President of DMC.

Young says the full impact of the pandemic is hard to be seen, while we still battle the spread of the Delta variant.

Despite listing signs throughout downtown, Young says the demand for smaller spaces are high.

“Downtown is the best office campus that you can find,” Young said. “We have great walkability, restaurants, all the things that you need to have for a vibrant office space.”

One of the more notable holes left in downtown was made by the Raymond James building, nearly 1,000 employees leaving the 21-story building, but we’ve recently learned the owner plans to transition the floorplan into apartments.

“Residential is very strong in downtown Memphis, 90% occupancy in downtown with regard to apartments, so we understand their desire to fill that void,” said Young.

In a time where remote learning is the fad, you could imagine Young and the DMC’s pleasant surprise to see that in the Memphis in-person work is still a valued aspect of the business community.

“It’s an ecosystem, so when those offices bring those employees, back, those employees will patronize many of those downtown businesses,” said Young. “And so, those small businesses that are the lifeblood of our community will be able to thrive as a result of those offices coming back to life.”

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