How do you prepare for the future when there’s so much uncertainty?
Experts predict widescale demographic shifts from large densely developed cities to smaller cities with room to expand outwards. As a result, there won’t be any cookie-cutter solutions to preparing for the future. Success will be a matter of each community, each developer and building owner, and each development recognizing new opportunities and knowing how to meet new challenges. WGI’s experts are the partners you need to recognize both, and develop strategies for meeting each unique situation.
Adaptability is the key to coming out of this crisis strong — and building and complex owners able to modify their current properties hold the advantage. Current and prospective tenants’ needs will likely change as more employees work from home, at least part of the time. Some owners will find a shrinking market for their commercial space and may benefit from adding retail or residential space. Some retail landlords will need to pivot and find a new use for some properties, such as converting to warehouse and e-commerce fulfillment. There are no set rules.
With new properties, developers are already building flexibility and creativity into their investment, and the safety minded changes demanded in new construction design. The “new normal” is that prospective tenants — commercial, residential, retail, and more — are looking for a healthier building that increases physical distancing and decreases shared contact surfaces. Opportunities for traditional office space development continue, but it may not always be the best choice. Changes happening before the crisis, combined with those wrought by COVID-19, have developers exploring things like touchless technology from the entry door and garage lobby door, to touchless elevators and restrooms, all controlled though mobile devices. This level of “protective” technology is highly marketable across the board.
Other adaptations are happening at the outset to cater to prospective tenants’ changing needs. This could mean developing flexible mixed-use complexes offering different combinations of commercial, residential, retail, entertainment, or space for other uses.
We may even see a call for micro mixed-use development where individual units combine residential and office space. If telecommuting becomes the predominant norm, are bedrooms converted to offices sufficient? Perhaps space within residential units specifically designed for use as an office, with more electrical and utility connections and better lighting, become the order of the day. Again, creativity is required to reimagine how to best serve the tenant of tomorrow, and WGI’s design experts are here to help you anticipate their needs and find innovative ways to meet them. Helping intelligently design spaces where people aggregate — to work, to live, to shop, to eat — that the developer/owner knows can be reconfigured to meet the vagaries of the market, is invaluable in a world that is still unpredictable.
As a developer or building owner, you will have to look at parking through a new lens, too. How will the shift to telecommuting impact your property’s parking demand? What are the short-term implications of COVID-19, with people initially avoiding public transit and commuting in their personal vehicles? How will these trends affect your approach to your parking assets, both in the near- and long-term? As with building development, every situation is unique and requires a customized solution. These are the kinds of questions WGI’s parking planning experts can help answer.