Why your old office may soon become a luxury apartment

When The Wray opened in Washington, DC’s fashionable Foggy Bottom neighbourhood in May 2021, it was one of the buzziest real-estate projects of the year. Not only did the eight-storey apartment complex have bold Art Deco designs in its grand lobby, but also a rooftop terrace overlooking the DC skyline with fire pits and grills as well as a penthouse clubroom with a lounge and private meeting space. 

For residents of the neighbourhood, it was quite a surprise to see this World War Two-era building transformed into 158 luxury apartments. It was, after all, filled just two years earlier with foreign-policy makers dissecting diplomatic cables at offices run by the US State Department.

The Wray is just one of several work buildings in the Washington DC area that have been adapted into residential space. According to a recent report from rental listings site RentCafe, the US capital has converted more offices to housing since the start of the pandemic than anywhere else in the nation, with 1,091 new units. Neighbouring city Alexandria, Virginia, meanwhile, is right behind with 955 new units. 

Remote-work and hybrid schemes have led companies to reduce the footprint of their offices, lowering demand and increasing supply. Meanwhile, the heated housing market has left developers eager to transform ageing assets into prime residential real estate. This adaptive reuse has the potential to revitalise central business districts (CBDs), which have been devastated by the pandemic, as well as upend outdated assumptions about how to design cities… (continue reading at the BBC).

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