What is hybrid work life doing to Boston’s financial district?

BOSTON — New numbers out show a trend in the wrong direction as Boston tries to recover from Covid. The report says Boston’s commercial vacancy rate across the city is at an all-time high – approaching 20 percent.

Experts believe more people working hybrid in some capacity has left businesses leaving their larger office spaces.

On Tuesday during the lunch hour, we caught up with Christopher Bruno who works near Downtown Crossing. “Some days it is a lot of people in town and other days it’s not too many people at all,” said Bruno.

The pandemic is still changing the way people work a full week and Ginger Stolzenthaler, a banker in Post Office Square, said she is currently hybrid. “Two days away and three days in the office,” said Stolzenthaler.

More hybrid working is the focus of the latest Boston Office Market report completed by researchers at Colliers International. Their fourth-quarter numbers show office space vacancy rates at 17.6, up from about 8 percent pre-pandemic. Colliers estimates that to be about 12 million square feet of office space which is roughly the size of 10 Prudential Towers.

Michael Nichols, the President of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, is watching the trend closely. “It’s both troubling and an opportunity,” said Nichols. “I don’t think we yet know exactly what people will do in the future or whether they return to work.”

Jon Hurst, the President at Retailers of Massachusetts, says Boston has a high number of people working hybrid even more than New York City. “Unless we see more movement for more people to come back to downtown Boston into these offices we are going to see more dark storefronts,” said Hurst.

How many people are working in the city also impacts the number of people riding the MBTA? The T says they monitor it very closely. In fact, they change their service plans on a quarterly basis based on ridership. The T says subway ridership is about 61 percent of what it was. The commuter rail and busses are at 75 percent.

“It’s very nice to work at home a few days a week,” said Stolzenthaler. That may be the big question for what works in the future.

“We need Boston to pick up the pace and we need people back in downtown Boston. In the offices but also our stores, our restaurants,” said Hurst. “Downtown crossing has come through war, recession, from depression and it always has its next day. We will have our next day coming out of Covid,” said Nichols.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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