Because remote labor has left many offices empty, developers are converting them into private residences with the aim of revitalizing dwindling commercial areas. One of the most talked-about real-estate developments of the year was The Wray, which debuted in May 2021 in Washington, DC’s posh Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The eight-story apartment complex included a grand 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 meeting space.

Locals were taken aback by the makeover of this World War II-era structure into 158 luxury apartments. Just two years prior, it had been crowded with foreign leaders studying diplomatic cables at US State Department headquarters. Adaptive reuse initiatives in factories and hotels were fashionable a decade ago. Former workplaces now account for 41% of all US residences remodeled in the last two years, according to RentCafe.

This adaptive reuse has the potential to both revitalize CBDs that have been devastated by the pandemic and to challenge long-held assumptions about how cities should be constructed. However, several obstacles, such as tax requirements and zoning restrictions, make the transition difficult. Converting offices to houses will require considerable changes, much as converting homes to offices did.