Sep 27, 2022 - News

Return-to-work stagnates

Office occupancy in Austin
Data: Kastle; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Two-and-a-half years since the start of the pandemic, return-to-work numbers appear stagnant in Austin.

  • Figures are way up from a nadir in the early days of COVID, but still far off pre-pandemic heights.
  • Austin's current occupancy — 61% — far outstrips a national average — 47%— of 10 cities, including Austin, per Kastle Office Systems card-swipe data.

Why it matters: Whether workers return downtown has profound implications for small businesses and major transportation projects.

  • Project Connect, approved by voters before the pandemic, has Austin spending billions of dollars in coming years to build train lines aimed at whisking workers and others to and from the city center.

Zoom in: Less than half of the law firm Winstead is working in person at its offices atop the Frost Bank Tower nowadays, founding partner Pete Winstead tells Axios.

Yes, but: Austin's downtown commercial leasing surged well above pre-pandemic levels last year, and beat out Houston, Dallas and San Antonio for new leases and construction.

  • Builders continue to bet big on Austin. Have you noticed all those cranes?
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