Humble suburban shopping centres could soon come to the rescue of large companies who are struggling to get workers back into offices due to physical distancing restrictions.
- Empty retail spaces are being looked at for office space due to physical distancing
- The safe use of elevators in high rise buildings are causing long wait times
- Shop areas provide more space for workers to come together in
Many Australian CBD office workers are being told to remain working at home due to the wait time for elevators and the inability to distance people in their current workplace.
Ross Elliot from not-for-profit industry group Suburban Alliance believes inner-city businesses will benefit from working out of vacant retail spaces left by stores such as Target or Big W.
“We’re exploring the idea with architects, with designs and ideas, so that tightly-packed office workers can get back to work,” he told ABC Radio Brisbane.
“There’s a few locations on the city fringe and inner-city Brisbane where we’re looking at their floor plans to see what can be done.
“Many of these businesses can’t go back if they wanted to.
“If they had 500 people and they can only accommodate two-thirds of the people in their usual location then the other people have to go somewhere. We think shopping centres are the solution.”
Mr Elliot said with restrictions possibly being in place for a long time yet, large spaces were needed.
“One of our clients is a shopping centre owner who had a large retailer de-camp leaving behind a big space and it’s unlikely they will be filled by retail tenants,” he said.
Elevators are little help
Mr Elliot said one of the main issues was not only space but the inability to use elevators with physical distancing rules.
“Distancing in lifts is impossible and it creates long lines of people trying to get to work in high-rises,” he said.
He added that cities such as Sydney were already seeing problems as people tried to return to work.
“Trying to get everyone to work in the same location in inner Sydney is an issue at the moment,” Mr Elliot said.
“In Brisbane the jobs growth in suburban areas is better, outstripping the inner-city by two or three times, so the River City may be able to handle things a little easier.”
Callers to ABC Radio Brisbane were mixed on whether shopping centres would work as office space:
“It would take three hours for all our staff to get up to the 37th floor in our building as only two people can be in the lift at one time. Makes sense to look further afield.” — Diane from Coorparoo
“The cheaper option is to work from home as there’s still the existing rental for the original office space.” — Adrian from Brisbane
“Move all the schools into vacant shopping centres and develop the schools for housing.” — Barry from Kenmore