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Office space glut is new reality for Greater Hartford

Downtown Hartford buildings in March, 2021.
Tony Spinelli
Connecticut Public
Downtown Hartford buildings in March 2021.

It's a great time to need office space in Greater Hartford — and a not-so-great time to own it. That's according to a report from commercial real estate services firm CBRE Inc. It says that at the end of 2022, about 7 million square feet of office space in and around Hartford remained unrented. That's nearly a third of the region's total available office space, and it represents a roughly 20% jump in vacancies since right before the pandemic started. One man trying hard to figure out what to do is Metro Hartford Alliance CEO David Griggs.

“The issue that we have here in Hartford is not a uniquely Hartford issue,” Griggs said on Connecticut Public Radio’s All Things Considered. “Communities all across America and all across the world are dealing with this exact issue. While it’s a global issue, the solutions have to be local.”

With that in mind, Griggs says he’s put together a team of local businesspeople and politicians to consider solutions to the problem. Among the options they’ve discussed are turning office buildings into multi-use spaces, converting them into strictly hotels and turning them into apartments or condos.

“But we need to be careful with that too,” Griggs said. “Because if we took that 5 million square feet that you mentioned and turned it all into residential, we’re going to ruin our residential real estate market in a heartbeat. So, we need to be careful about what we’re converting, why we’re converting it and what we’re converting it to.”

Griggs said one strategy his group is committed to — as it seeks to fill Greater Hartford’s unrented office space — is tailoring solutions to the way the world has changed due to the rise of remote and hybrid work.

“I think people that are in the room for the most part agree the community that figures out the new way — not the old way, the new way — will be the community that wins.”

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.

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