Because remote labor has left many offices vacant, developers are transforming them into private apartments in order to breathe new life into declining commercial districts.

The Wray, which opened in May 2021 in Washington, DC’s rich Foggy Bottom neighborhood, was one of the most talked-about real-estate ventures of the year. A magnificent lobby with dramatic Art Deco décor, a rooftop terrace with fire pits and grills overlooking the DC skyline, and a penthouse clubroom with a lounge and private conference area were all part of the eight-story apartment complex. The transformation of this World War II-era tower into 158 luxury apartments stunned residents. Foreign leaders had been analyzing diplomatic cables at US State Department headquarters just two years before. A decade ago, adaptive reuse programs in factories and hotels were popular.

This adaptive reuse has the ability to both rejuvenate CBDs that have been decimated by the pandemic and to question long-held beliefs about how cities should be built. However, a number of roadblocks, including tax requirements and zoning constraints, make the shift difficult.