As Jon Chesto indicates in his July 20 Business column “Rethinking post-COVID office space,” many office workers probably will never return to the office. Employers now will carefully evaluate who needs space in a fixed location and which jobs can be done remotely with better online tools.
That leaves the following question: What do we do with the millions of square feet of surplus space in Greater Boston?
The answer: How about repurposing it as housing?
Much of it is located near transit stops, highways, parking facilities (especially in close suburbs), and many of the amenities people desire in a city. Modify the zoning a bit, convert some of the surplus parking to green space, and take suites of offices and convert them to living space, and we’ll go a long way toward solving a problem that has hamstrung the region for years.
The buildings are already erected, many have floor plans that allow for flexibility, and there is usually adequate plumbing and electric service, not to mention high-speed data, HVAC, and elevators helping to make spaces accessible. There are millions of square feet that, if creatively redivided, would create ample apartments. This could be done without cutting one tree (in fact, some could be planted), increasing traffic, or creating new transit stops.
Add the fact that people would commute less, and it seems like an ideal response to a horrific upheaval.