As Business Districts Continue to Falter, Mixed-Use Neighborhoods Flourish

While office vacancies remain high and foot traffic sparse in many U.S. downtowns, areas with housing and businesses are more vibrant and desirable than ever.

1 minute read

June 6, 2023, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

The rise of remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic has indeed shifted the center of gravity for U.S. cities, but rather than the wholesale ‘death of cities’ predicted early on, this change has simply meant that neighborhoods with mixed-use amenities are thriving while sterile, 9-to-5 business districts flounder.

Konrad Putzier and Kate King outline the phenomenon in The Wall Street Journal, writing, “Many residential neighborhoods benefit from remote work. As people spend more time at home, they frequent local shops, gyms and restaurants, boosting the economy of places such as Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Ditmas Park and Williamsburg, as well as Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown.” 

Data shows visitor foot traffic is quickly rebounding to pre-pandemic levels in  mixed-use, residential neighborhoods, while downtown foot traffic remains low. “Rent data, meanwhile, attests to strong demand for city living,” with rents significantly higher in desirable neighborhoods. “In the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, the median rent is up 63%.”

The authors don’t deny the challenges facing cities. “Vacant office buildings leave downtown shops and restaurants with too few customers, while falling commercial building values threaten property-tax revenues,” while “Housing shortages have pushed up rents.” But the neighborhoods with the characteristics and amenities most valued before the pandemic—walkability, access to transit, and a mix of businesses and residential uses—are continuing to draw residents eager to live there.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 in The Wall Street Journal

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