DC Office Market Leans Into Advantages Amid COVID

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While no one knows for sure what’s next, D.C.’s office market does have one thing going for it compared with other markets: the height of its buildings, or the lack thereof. The city’s 130-foot height limit from the street—about 11 stories on average—makes it somewhat less scary for people to return to work.

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“In looking at other markets with very tall buildings and trying to get a lot of people into elevators, the smallness of our buildings makes them seem more safe,” Sarah Dreyer, vice president and head of Americas research for Savills, said. “You’re not getting a lot of people into elevators. It’s easier to stagger arrivals dealing with 10 floors versus 40 floors.”

But while there may be potential bright spots—Washington, D.C., tends to recover from harsh economic times faster because it’s the seat of the federal government—the unknowns surrounding COVID make the prospects for D.C. office space as unknowable at this point as the results of the next election.   

“Occupiers are waiting for more clarity before they sign any significant lease commitments,” Devon Munos, Savills’ D.C. research director, said. “Right now, flexibility’s really at the forefront of occupiers’ minds as they look to be able to adapt quickly and effectively to a changing world.

“I think the pandemic will likely result in some sort of an evolution in the way we work and the way that we use our workplace, with new trends likely merging to become part of our new normal in 2021 and onwards.”

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