In the latest episode of our podcast, "What I Learned This Week In Proptech," Fernando and I delved into the rapidly evolving landscape of urban real estate, focusing on the transformation of downtown areas. We discussed how changes in work patterns and the economic climate reshaped urban centers, especially in San Francisco.
The Future of Downtown Areas
"We operated in a space that was changing really quickly," Fernando said, highlighting the dynamic nature of real estate in today's world. The episode kicked off with a discussion about the future of downtown areas, particularly in the context of changing work patterns. Fernando shared his observations on how these shifts visibly impacted San Francisco, our home base.
The Real Estate Downturn
One striking point I raised was the alarming vacancy rates in San Francisco - surpassing 30%. This trend was not just a local phenomenon but a broader reflection of the global shifts in the real estate market. "It's kind of like one of those Y2K level thresholds that you just don't want to be passed," I noted, drawing parallels between the current real estate situation and past significant events.
Repurposing Commercial Spaces
A key part of our discussion revolved around the innovative repurposing of traditional commercial spaces. Fernando mentioned Aikito's involvement in such projects, emphasizing the importance of community in reimagining these spaces. "Community was the thing that was missing since the pandemic and it's what was missing when you work from home," he said.
San Francisco's Resilience
Despite the challenges, there were signs of resilience and adaptation in San Francisco. Fernando shared his recent experiences in the city, noting a surprising uptick in activity and cleanliness in areas traditionally perceived as less desirable. This observation sparked a conversation about the city's potential for recovery and transformation.
The Rise of Themed Commercial Spaces
I shared an interesting encounter with an entrepreneur who planned to convert a major building downtown into a climate-themed skyscraper. This concept of themed commercial spaces as a means to attract specific communities and businesses represented a novel approach in commercial real estate.
The WeWork Scenario
Our conversation also touched upon the recent news of WeWork's bankruptcy, leading to a broader discussion on the future of coworking spaces. We agreed that while WeWork's model faced challenges, the concept of coworking remained relevant and was likely to evolve with more sustainable business practices.
The Role of Local Government
Towards the end of the episode, we explored the role of local government in responding to these changes. I emphasized the potential of local policies to create opportunities or pose challenges in the evolving landscape of urban real estate.
The episode wrapped up with us contemplating future discussions, particularly around the intricacies of commercial permitting and its impact on urban development. This conversation set the stage for more in-depth exploration of the intersection between proptech, urban development, and community building.