Reimagining Commercial Spaces After the COVID-19 Pandemic

Pandemic

Life won’t be the same in many ways as we transition to the “new normal.” One big difference could be the sight of empty retail shops and smaller restaurants and office spaces. After all, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to run remotely, leaving employees to fulfill their daily duties at home.

Will American cities look and feel desolate?

As e-commerce grows, more brick-and-mortar shops will move out of their physical locations. Many of these spaces will stay empty for months. Bright awnings and store signs that were once the face of a lively city will be gone. The streets will carry a strange vibe of a permanent cheerless holiday.

But the American city will not die—if anything, its near-death will also be its rebirth. Some economists project that when retail space rental fees fall, mom-and-pop stores will rise again. Cheaper overhead costs will encourage them to be brave again and offer something new—or something we all missed.

Are large offices a thing of the past?

General contractors, interior designers, and commercial space owners expect shrinking office space. After all, recent lockdown measures have shown employees can work from home. So, will the shrinking office space affect commercial real estate? It will—but not much.

Like any other business, commercial buildings will likely adapt to the changing demands of their consumers. Office spaces may get smaller, and companies may bid farewell to open-office plans, but offices will remain open. The work-from-home setup isn’t for everyone. Some employees will want to go back to the physical office—even if it will just be for two days a week—to delineate work from life.

With half of the workforce working from home and the other half in the office, the demand for strong connectivity will also rise. As long as commercial real estate owners boost their building’s wireless network, they will remain an attractive option for various companies.

What will happen to dine-in restaurants?

"Sorry we're closed" sign

Besides great food, one of the joys of dining out is spending quality time with friends or family as the soundtrack of a hundred strangers’ conversations hum in the background. But that communal spirit isn’t possible when diners need to practice social distancing. And sadly, most restaurants rely on a full house to make rent, pay for staff, and get quality ingredients. So, what will happen to the restaurants?

The restaurant industry may seem dying, but the ingenious concept of ghost kitchen can revive it. Ghost kitchens don’t need dining areas and all that fancy interior décor. They are large kitchens that virtual brand restaurants can use to store, prepare, and cook the food they deliver to customers.

With ghost kitchens, restaurateurs can recoup past losses by drastically cutting their operating costs. They only need fewer employees and less space to operate daily. Plus, the concept of ghost kitchen could easily be expanded to offer an elevated “dining experience” for customers at home. For a premium price, ghost kitchen operators can send some of their staff to the customers’ home to plate each meal they ordered and create an Instagram-worthy dinner spread complete with wine pairings or cocktails.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic will change the way we live, work, and do business. But a bad start shouldn’t mean a bad end. From the ashes, something new or even better will rise—as long as we build it right.

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