The seventh wave harms the return to office

The rise in the number of workers returning to office towers has stalled with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Montreal, according to an indicator that tracks downtown pedestrian traffic.

Posted at 5:00 am

Andre Dubuc

Andre Dubuc
The press

According to real estate agency Avison Young’s Vitality Index, whose data is available online, pedestrian traffic in Montreal has stagnated since early June, averaging around 128,000 people a day.

That’s about 40% of pre-pandemic ridership.

The Avison Young Vitality Index uses data from Orbital Insight, a location data analyst. “Orbital Insight aggregates de-identified location data from cellphones targeted to specific locations to estimate total foot traffic in each city and industry. The data goes back to June 2019 in the United States and early 2020 in Canada, allowing for a comparison to pre-pandemic levels,” the agency explains on its website.

Before the pandemic, daily traffic in downtown office towers averaged over 300,000 people. A recent low was observed in December 2021 during the Omicron wave when the daily average dropped to 53,000 people.

Since the last week of December 2021, when the Legault government reinstated lockdown, the increase in visitor numbers has been encouraging, rising from 53,000 at the end of December to an average of 128,000 people per day at the end of May. . Then came the seventh wave.

Since May 30, traffic in downtown Montreal’s towers has dropped nearly 10%, the third-worst result among 23 North American cities included in the Avison Young Index.

“It would be more accurate to say that the 7the wave has halted the mandatory return of workers to offices,” said Marie-France Benoit, director, market intelligence in Canada, at Avison Young. In their opinion, too many factors could possibly explain the decline, such as the start of the summer holidays.

In this regard, we note that cities in the Northeastern United States of a similar size to Montreal, such as Boston and Philadelphia, have been reopening since 01.01ah June.

In fact, the recent drop appears to be a Canadian phenomenon, as five of the six cities have closed since Janah June lie north of 49e parallel, except for Nashville, Tennessee.

The vacancy marks a turning point

All is not black in the Montreal office market, however, according to market research by CBRE, a real estate agency competing with Avison Young, in the second quarter of 2022.

“The vacancy rate has remained unchanged at 16.1% since the last quarter,” it says. “This is the first time since the pandemic began that vacancy rates have not increased from quarter to quarter. […] The second quarter of 2022 is also the first quarter in which the city center has recorded positive net absorption. In fact, in the months of April up to and including June, more office space was rented or taken off the market than was added. »

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  • – 58.8%
    Decrease in downtown pedestrian traffic since the pandemic began on July 18, 2022. As of May 23, the decrease was 56%.


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