Some 70 per cent of CBD workers expect to work from home for as many as two days a week as the pandemic disruption retreats, prompting fresh calls from the property sector for dramatic intervention to revive CBDs around the country.
Put together by the Property Council of Australia and EY, the report, Reimagining our economic powerhouses: How to turn CBDs into central experience districts, surveyed 600 CBD users, tapped into industry data and academic papers, and canvassed the views of business leaders.
It found CBD workers expect to work on-site on average 3.3 days, with Mondays and Fridays the least preferred days to attend the office. Younger respondents, aged 18 to 35, were most likely to place importance in a CBD location for work, with close to two-thirds of the cohort sharing that view. Overall, just 48 per cent of respondents agreed.
Three-quarters of the survey’s respondents said employer premises and amenities were an important factor when choosing their next job.
But the report also identified a willingness to embrace change with 82 per cent of respondents confident that their nearest CBD would evolve to meet their needs.
To secure the return of more workers to the CBD, the report recommends the introduction of free public transport and parking for workers on slow days, such as Mondays and Fridays. It calls for city precincts to be activated through late night shopping and night-time markets, especially on weeknights.
“Our CBDs have been the nation’s productivity powerhouses for decades, but have been sorely challenged by COVID-19 shutdowns. It’s important for everyone that CBDs are able to reclaim this economic mantle,” Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison said.
“Lively city centres are not only important for the thousands of businesses that rely on foot traffic, but also for millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars in broader economic activity generated in our CBDs.”
Other measures to help revive under-loved CBDs include filling unused retail space with pop-up stores to bring vibrancy and accelerating efforts to “green up” workplaces and streetscapes.
Commuters could be offered more opportunities to get around through cycling, walking, e-bikes or scooters, according to the report.
“We can transform our places of business into centres of experience,” said Selina Short, managing partner for EY Oceania’s real estate, hospitality and construction business.
“How do we do this? We need to rethink quality and reimagine the workplace, introduce more green space, embrace future mobility, amplify our Brand Australia message and more.”
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