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Office and other properties in cities’ vibrant mixed-use districts have fared better than those located in office-dominant areas, according to CBRE’s “Shaping Tomorrow’s Cities” report.

Vibrant mixed-use districts are defined by CBRE as walkable urban areas that include a blend of apartments, retail, hotels, high-quality office space, and restaurants. For the report, it analyzed 68 such districts in 19 markets.

In the mixed-use districts analyzed, office vacancies were lower (18% average) than in their cities’ nonprime business districts (22%), which mostly include office parks without top-quality office buildings and live-work-play features.

“Reinvigorating city cores will be no easy task, but there are road maps for every city to consider,” said Julie Whelan, CBRE global head of occupier research. “Vibrant mixed-use districts provide a blueprint for vitality that cities can strive to foster in other neighborhoods.”

CBRE’s report recommends that a key strategy for revitalizing cities struggling with high office vacancies and other related challenges is encouraging the development of other property types in office-heavy locales. This includes converting underutilized office properties to other uses, primarily apartments, and redesigning spaces into better office properties.

In and around the 68 mixed-use districts analyzed, 43.5 million square feet of mostly vacant office buildings could be candidates for conversions or could be renovated into higher-quality office spaces. According to CBRE, this could yield up to 43,500 residential units across these districts if all the buildings were converted. In addition, revitalization efforts could target underutilized buildings in nonprime business districts, which comprise 58% of total office space in the 19 cities analyzed.

As of the first quarter, the conversion of approximately 25 million square feet of downtown office space was either planned or underway in the 19 markets, with 84% of it for multifamily use. CBRE noted that even if all these conversions are completed, they would reduce downtown office inventory by only 2% and would not lower overall vacancy rates to long-term averages.Dallas has the highest share of downtown office inventory under conversion, which will help decrease its vacancy rate of approximately 30%. According to CBRE, the confluence of high office vacancy and strong population growth in the city has driven conversions, particularly for multifamily. These conversions will play a key role in facilitating a more walkable, vibrant downtown.

However, CBRE noted opportunities vary by the city, and conversions of downtown office buildings aren’t the only solutions. In addition, conversions of obsolete buildings in the inner-ring suburbs, including those adjacent to public transit, can help activate those areas.

The report also highlighted six elements critical for cities’ evolution, including the vitality and adaptability of the local economy; demographics; quality of life; state of infrastructure; its identity as defined by history, natural resources, and culture; and responsiveness of the city government.

“Some of these elements can only be changed gradually, over decades. Others, such as responsive governance, can be addressed more quickly,” said John Stephens, senior director of CBRE Americas Consulting. “There are roles for every constituency to play in revitalizing cities. For example, building owners and developers can invest in redeveloping existing properties and contribute to placemaking of vibrant areas.”