How Is NYC’s Commercial Real Estate Slump Affecting the Empire State Building?

One building can tell us a lot

Empire State Building
An uncertain future for an iconic building.
Christopher Czermak/Unsplash

Since the pandemic began, a lot has been written about its effect on commercial real estate — especially in New York City. With the rise of the delta variant and concerns over the current phase of the pandemic, a number of experts have done their best to ponder what the future of the city’s real estate market could look like — something that has broader implications than the future of office space.

A new report from The New York Times looks at the broader issues facing real estate in the city through the lens of one singular building. Is the Empire State Building facing an uncertain future? For a number of reasons, the Empire State Building faces a perfect storm of pandemic-related crises. Its space includes commercial tenants, retailers on the ground floor and observation decks that derive substantial income from visiting tourists — all areas that the pandemic has adversely affected.

The report’s findings include some sobering numbers. With respect to the observatory, “nearly a million” visited in the observatory in the second quarter of 2019. For the second quarter of 2021, that number was down by 83%, to 162,000 — and that still represented an increase over the first quarter of this year.

Via interviews and public statements, the Times also learned that 41% of the commercial tenants “will embrace a hybrid work model” as opposed to requiring all employees to work from the office all the time.

The full breadth of data contained in the report offers plenty to think about — and gives a good sense of how businesses have responded to the pandemic, and what might might come next for a host of workplaces.

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