In the News—Week of May 10 2021
Around the Nation
Pandemic, protests take a toll on office occupancy in Portland
The pandemic forced workers out of the office building. The protests and the resulting property damage are keeping some from returning. The Portland Tribune reports that downtown Portland, Oregon’s office vacancy rate has risen above 15% and the market now ranks 66 out of 80 in national commercial real estate markets, according to a report by PwC and the Urban Land Institute. “Outside investors — and a lot of large projects rely on them — can pick and choose from opportunities around the country. If Portland, for whatever reason, is deemed a bit more risky or less desirable, then those investments and projects flow to other markets,” state economist Josh Lehner says.
Energy & Environment
A bump in the road for EVs: What to do with used up batteries?
The EU hopes there will be 30 million electric cars on European roads, the BBC reports. Electric vehicles may not emit any carbon dioxide directly — there can be some, depending on how the electricity they use is generated — while they are running, but when their days on the road are through, they present a problem. Once the batteries are spent, they are a challenge to recycle. EV batteries have several hundred individual lithium-ion cells that must be taken apart. “Currently, globally, it’s very hard to get detailed figures for what percentage of lithium-ion batteries are recycled, but the value everyone quotes is about 5%,’’ says Paul Anderson from University of Birmingham.
Braun Enterprises buys inner-Loop building for its Urban Concept
Houston-based Braun Enterprises has purchased a 90,423-square-foot office building on Old Katy Road, the Houston Chronicle reports. The two-story building is inside Loop 610 north of Interstate 10. Braun plans to renovate the exterior and interior of the office buildings with much of the space devoted to its Urban Concept, which includes office suites, conference rooms and coffee bars. Braun has Urban Office buildings in the Galleria and Heights areas.
Dallas leads the nation in workers going back to the office
States are lifting their COVID-19 restrictions. People are getting out more, shopping, dining, taking trips. But one activity that has been slow to recover is working in the office again, USA Today reports. Kastle Systems’ latest data shows only 26.1% of workers are back in the office in 10 large cities. Dallas leads nationally with workers in the office at 41.2% of the pre-pandemic levels. No. 2 and No. 3 are Houston (39.3%) and Austin (38.8%). “While the return to the office is picking up slowly, we have not seen meaningful movement yet,” Kastle Chairman Mark Ein says. “It’s a very low number.”
Arizona commercial real estate benefits from national trends
Older millennials are beginning to appreciate the suburbs. Density is seen as less desirable in a post-COVID 19 world. And major companies are relocating their headquarters from high-priced locales to cheaper cities in the Sun Belt, AZ Big Media reports. Nuveen Real Estate issued a paper that says all this adds up to positive trends for commercial real estate in Arizona. The population growth extends well beyond housing. More houses mean more retail, hospitals, office buildings and e-commerce fulfillment centers.
Locals stall operation of industrial farm over water, waste disposal
Indigenous communities in Yucatan have successfully halted the operation of a large industrial pig farm, arguing that its water use and waste disposal would harm the environment, Mexico Business News reports. The area was declared a protected reserve in 2013 after numerous underground freshwater basins were mapped. The farm occupied 113 hectares of jungle property and began operating in 2018. A court fight began in 2016 and went on for about five years.