Because remote labor has left many offices vacant, developers are converting them into private houses, in the hopes of reviving fading business districts. The Wray, which opened in May 2021 in Washington, DC’s upscale Foggy Bottom neighborhood, was one of the year’s most talked-about real-estate developments. The eight-story apartment complex featured dramatic Art Deco decorations in its grand lobby, as well as a rooftop terrace with fire pits and grills overlooking the DC skyline, as well as a penthouse clubroom with a lounge and private conference space.

The transformation of this World War II-era building into 158 luxury apartments came as a shock to locals in the area. It had been crammed with foreign policymakers examining diplomatic cables at US State Department headquarters just two years before. Factory and hotel adaptive reuse projects were popular a decade ago. According to RentCafe, former workplaces now account for 41% of all US apartments transformed in the last two years. They’re also the most common building type for future adaptive reuse projects, accounting for one-quarter of the 52,700 residential units projected in the US by 2022 (up from 6,960 in 2012).

This adaptive reuse has the ability to revitalize CBDs that have been decimated by the pandemic, as well as challenge long-held beliefs about how cities should be designed. However, there are numerous hurdles, such as tax rules and zoning limitations, making the shift difficult. Just as converting homes to offices necessitated significant modifications, so will converting offices to homes.