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Downtown Honolulu shops and eateries feel impact of hybrid work schedules

Edmund Garman
CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

Foot traffic in downtown Honolulu is nowhere near its pre-Covid levels. Commercial real estate executives say that’s having a broader impact.

Colliers says Oʻahu’s office vacancy rate rose to just over 13% in the first quarter — its highest level in nearly 20 years. That office space is concentrated in urban Honolulu, with half of it in downtown Honolulu alone.

Shawlea Aona, senior associate in CBRE’s office division, says the pandemic has “tremendously” affected the Central Business District, both during the Covid-related lockdowns and up to the present day.

Many companies have retained work-from-home and hybrid schedules as part of their post-Covid normal.

Because of those shifts, the office vacancy rate alone understates the decline in daily foot traffic downtown.

Aona tells PBN parking garage occupancy in late 2021 was down as much as 25% from late 2019.

Jamie Brown, president of Hawaii Commercial Real Estate, has been looking at mainland occupancy reports from Kastle Access Control System data, which measures office key fob usage.

That company finds that office occupancy in big cities is about 43% of its pre-Covid normal.

Brown thinks Honolulu’s numbers would be somewhat higher but that the data is a good proxy for what’s happening here.

Street-level shops, services and eateries are feeling the decline. They all depend on office workers.

They may have to hold out longer, Brown estimates it could take several years for downtown occupancy to fully rebound.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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