Monday, January 19, 2009

Do the Collapse: Skyscraper Occupancy South of 3rd

And collapse they did, in the economic and occupancy sense. Structucally they remain standing though mostly empty.

Perhaps a better illustration is this timeline, showing how buildings drop out of the real estate market, via closure and conversion. The remaining open buildings are at just 16%-20% of their peak occupancy.
Investigating private sector occupants (dropping non-profits and government offices) by category one can see how the medical category dominates in the early years of the study period, but shrinks to insignifigance.

Occupancy Trends by Category

Recasting the bar graph as a line graph so the trends will pop out more, the crash in the medical category is quite evident. This category includes psychiatrists, psychologists, optomitrists and opticians, dentists, medical and dental labs, clinics, HMOs and health plans, and, of course practioners and specialists.
At the end of the study period there are no practioners left downtown, which is a remarkably thorough culling.

Taking out the medical category some of the smaller categories reveal their trends.

The "Other" category is a grab bag of occupants ranging from beuaty shops, jewelers, music teachers, detective agencys and wacth repairs to subscription services, branch offices, manufactures reps, archictectural and engineering firms, and so forth. This is the colorful and diverse mix of downtown business captureed in the comix works of Ben Katchor and maybe Will Eisner in "The Building". As we're often talking about small business in "other" this category is somewhat spikey, perhaps in response to the business cycle as the lows roughly correspond to recessions after the big drop of the 1970s.

Not shown here, but if one drills down into the "other" the subcategory mix also changes through time, revealing the changing character of downtown work.

Legal, which includes title search companies, shows a big drop in the 1970s, then some stability. Perhaps this shows a shift from the small one-, two-, and three- man law office to the larger multi-partner practices, such as the ones that fill entire floors in 1 Dayton Center.

Real estate and insurance (which includes appraisers and adjusters) show a similar drop, but in this case nearly to nothing, as was the case with accounts.

Employment is employment agencies, temps, and headhunters. Finance is collection agencies, loan and mortgage companies, credit bureaus, and finacial advisors. These categories drop, but are somewhat stable with a slow decline after 1985.

Government and Non-Profit Organizations.

Non-profits being trade and professional associations, unions, charities, and advocacy groups. This category of occupants acts as sort of a floor for building occupancy. In the case of the Riebold Building they become the only occupant, but they assume an increasingly important role in non-government buildings as private sector occupany declines, approching parity in recent years.

Comparing the occupancy of buildings with and without government/non-profit occupants.
And a closer look at two buildings.

Center City Offices became a quasi-government office building in the 1970s, and as private sector occupancy collapsed government and non-profits assumed an increasingly larger role, until they left, dropping the building occupancy into the single digits, perhaps rendering the building economically unviable.

There is a similar pattern at 40 West Fourth, where government and nonprofit groups were in the building, but a small percentage of occupants, until private sector occupancy collapsed in the 1990s.

This resulted in government/non-profit category accounting for a third of all building occupants.

Within the non-profit category the subtype of professional and trade associations all but disappears, leaving mostly charitable and social service non-profits by 2005.

A Business Ecosystem?

It should be noted that what's measured here is not square feet occupied, or the number of people in buildings, but the number and type of occupants. Perhaps more of a business ecosystem, where one measures the diversity and number of types, and their habitats. In the case of law, one sees a collapse, then stability. For the medical category the collapse is near total.

What hasn't been looked at is some detail as to what category of business preferred what building (though this has been alluded to) and possible relations between categories. Drilling deeper would demonstrate that proximity plays a role, with little clusters of subcategories serving each other. And with real life ecosystems, the less diverse the more at-risk to collapse?

And then there is the question of where did they all go? Where did all the doctors and lawyers and employment agencies and insurance agents go?

Perhaps topics for future posts.


Anonymous said...

I thought 40W4th was almost completely full with Premier Health Partners (MVH) as the largest (and growing) tenant?

Jefferey said...

Since the most recent directories dare inconsistent in listing occupants per floor that would be the case, where there would be fewer occupants in a building. But the few that are in the building could occupy multiple floors.

This was the case earlier with 40 W 4th where inusrance company offices, like Travelers, occupied multiple floors.

Anonymous said...

The Business Ecosystem comments seem dead on. It would be very interested to see the avg sq ft occupied/tenant over the same period that the number of tenants declined so drastically.

Anonymous said...

My office (a small local office of a Fortune Global 500 company) used to occupy a suite at 40 W. 4th, from 1998 to 2005. When it came time to renew our lease, the building managment jacked us around, first telling us we had to relocate to a different floor (because they wanted to give Premier HP our entire floor), then announcing that we had to pay for the build-out of the raw space that was offered. We had paid for the build-out years earlier when we moved in, why should we pay again? After agreeing to allow us to remain in our existing space - with 1/3 of our floor space chopped off for Premier, the very next morning we were informed they had changed their mind and we had 30 days to leave. It was all legal, but handled very badly.

Most of the other tenants received the same unceremonious good-bye. I was told that Premier was leased the majority of the building at less than half of the rate we were paying. I guess that pencils out for someone.

Our search for other downtown office space was a dismal failure, worthy of it's own post - which I don't have the time or energy for today.

We relocated to the suburbs and have never looked back.

Jefferey said...

If you feel up to it I'd be really interested in yr companies search for downtown space and why that didnt work.

I'm interested because this indicates that your firm wanted to stay downtown.

Anonymous said...


I think your blog is great. I especially like the Bob Pollard reference in today's post!

I worked in a retail store downtown in High School and we were pushed out when DPS bought the building at 4th and Ludlow. have you looked at retail viability downtown? Not sure if space zoned for retail is part of your study. That building is very interesting inside, much older underneath its concrete facade.

Jefferey said...

This sounds like the old Wilkies store?

BTW, there is a pix of the school board buildings, formerly R&R, before they wrapped them in plastic, over at the Librarys Lutzenberger photo collection page.

Retail wasnt part of this, but I did a bunch of stuff on retail next year. I will repost a link to that later.

And yeah, the Bob Pollard sont title comes to mind a lot when thinking about Dayton city.

Jefferey said...

"The Business Ecosystem comments seem dead on. It would be very interested to see the avg sq ft occupied/tenant over the same period that the number of tenants declined so drastically."

It would be but I dont know how or where one would find the info.

Since all thats on record are the names and types of business, one can maybe find out where they went (if they moved), which would be interesting in its own right as an investigation of suburbanization of business...or maybe the impact of newer buildings opening downtown.

Anonymous said...


Yes it was Wilkies. I haven't heard from the owners since the store closed. They were both active in Dayton politics and I wonder if the read this blog.

I'll have to check out the old photos of the buildings. Wilkies had a few photos and Reynolds did as well.

Bob Pollard is another great Dayton inventor. Only instead of airplanes and electric starters, he was making songs/albums in his basement.