Prime minister Scott Morrison wants CBDs to get “humming” again as workplace occupancy along the east coast drops below 50 per cent.
A Property Council of Australia survey of members who own or manage office buildings in CBD locations shows occupancy levels have remained static or risen slightly in most capital cities.
Brisbane's CBD recorded only 52 per cent compared to pre-Covid, while Sydney recorded 35 per cent, while Melbourne was only at 10 per cent at the end of September.
Despite lockdowns, transactions in Melbourne’s CBD have been moving, with Futuro Capital understood to have offered $130 million for RMIT University’s office space (hero image) from levels four to 17.
The Sydney-based investment company is also said to have an $80 million deal underway for the lower levels of the building, including the Tivoli Arcade shops at 235-251 Bourke Street, Melbourne.
Office workplace occupancy compared to pre-Covid levels
^ Source: Property Council of Australia
In other office spaces across the country, all public servants are advised to return to their usual workplaces from 29 September including those at “higher risk of more severe illness”, providing Covid restrictions allow them to do so.
At a press conference on Wednesday the prime minister said public servants and businesses alike should return to the city, start buying lunches and get the economy moving again.
“It’s important that we get people back into their offices in a safe way,” Morrison said.
“I think people have learned an enormous amount over the last six months about how to do that in a Covid-safe way, and it’s time to get our CBDs humming again.”
PCA chief executive Ken Morrison said the group’s survey data reinforced the prime minister’s call, as building occupancy in the major CBDs continues to be well below pre-Covid levels despite very low or no community transmission being reported in most locations.
“Our CBDs are big drivers of productivity and economic activity,” Morrison said.
“Their reactivation is absolutely essential to economic recovery, including supporting all of those businesses which depend on CBD office workers for their viability.”