Image courtesy of BPDA

The Boston Planning & Development Agency is seeking real estate consultants to study the potential for office conversions in the downtown area, an area in which Boston lags many cities.

The focus area of the $100,000 study stretches from North Station to the Massachusetts Turnpike, according to a request for proposals issued this week by the BPDA.

The BPDA is seeking funding and land-use strategies to convert vacant office space to increase the number of downtown residents through housing and dense, mixed-use development.

To evaluate the potential for office conversions, consultants are asked to analyze office building types and physical characteristics, opportunities for retrofits and a financial analysis of conversions based upon building types and uses. Proposals are due Dec. 22.

A report released Monday indicates that Boston trails most large U.S. cities in housing conversions during the COVID-19 era.

Yardi Matrix reported that fewer than 400 apartments have been created in Boston through conversions from other building uses in the past two years, compared with more than 1,000 housing units apiece in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago. Nationwide, approximately 11,000 office-to-apartment conversions have taken place in the last two years.

In October, Mayor Michelle Wu announced a wide-ranging set of strategies to address rising office vacancies and restore vibrancy to downtown Boston.

Occupancy of downtown office buildings is just one-third of pre-pandemic levels, according to Boston Consulting Group, and local brokerages report that office vacancies have risen into the mid-teens. 

The administration is considering disposition of publicly-owned sites and rezoning that would allow taller buildings including housing.

Potential office-to-residential conversions could realign building uses with the shift in demand, although architects and developers say physical constraints make many office buildings unsuitable for residential use.

BPDA Seeks Downtown Conversion Options as Housing Lags

by Steve Adams time to read: 1 min