@guac · a year ago

Not so fast, urban exodus: Coronavirus could make New York and San Francisco great places to live again

published 9/22/2020


Steven Pearlstein, The Washington Post, Corey Foster, Joshua Sargent


Walk the streets of Manhattan these days and it's hard to believe that, only months ago, this was one of a handful of "supercities" whose dense concentration of innovative businesses and highly skilled workers was meant to drive economic growth in the 21st century. Six months into the pandemic, less than 10% of the city's white-collar workforce is back in the office, with less than a quarter expected back by the end of the year and only half before next summer, according to a survey by the Partnership for New York City. Broadway theaters are closed indefinitely, tourists are nowhere to be found, and the Hilton hotel in Times Square has permanently closed. Empty or boarded-up storefronts are common along what were once the world's glitziest shopping districts while nearly two-thirds of the city's restaurants say they could be out of business by the end of the year. Just about anyone who can has fled to weekend retreats in the country, some of them permanently, while home sales in the most sought-after suburbs have doubled. Most hours of the day, Grand Central Terminal is eerily quiet while the city's subway system, facing a $16 billion shortfall, warns of a 40% service cut. "NYC is dead forever," blared a recent headline in the New York Post over a lengthy lament by a former hedge fund manager and comedy club owner. Indeed, the future of big cities has become a hot topic of debate among academics, public officials, corporate executives - and, in particular, the people who own and finance office buildings, hotels, shopping centers and apartment buildings, who have $15 trillion riding on the outcome.To the dozen that I spoke with, it seems pretty clear that the pandemic will transform how and where people live, work and shop. But the consensus is also that while this decade-long process will be painful and disruptive,...