Business Record: Panelists discuss pandemic's effect on downtown office space

In early 2019, just 6.8% of office space in Des Moines’ central business district was vacant, according to a market report by CBRE|Hubbell Commercial.

Nearly three years later – and nearly 19 months after the start of the pandemic – almost 20% of the more than 6.4 million square feet of central business district office space is sitting empty, CBRE|Hubbell’s more recent market report shows.

“The pandemic has had a great impact on the office market, and those effects are going to linger,” said Jackie Nickolaus, senior developer for Sherman Associates, a Minneapolis-based developer with several projects underway in Des Moines.

Nickolaus was one of three panelists who talked about downtown development activity during a recent discussion sponsored by the Des Moines Downtown Chamber. Others on the panel were Tim Leach, senior vice president of downtown development for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, and Carrie Kruse, an economic development administrator for the city of Des Moines.

According to CBRE|Hubbell’s third-quarter report, sublease inventory in the Des Moines area climbed to 363,890 square feet, the highest level since 2011. A combined total of 53,036 square feet of sublease space became available at an office building at 909 Locust St. and at the Hub Tower, 699 Walnut St., both downtown Des Moines properties. The central business district has 89,000 square feet of sublease space available, most of which has been added to the market since the start of the pandemic, according to the report.

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