Ever since workers began returning to office buildings after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, Kastle Systems’ Back-to-Work Barometer has been a go-to source for gauging office occupancy in markets around the country. Now, in the nation’s largest office market, an influential real estate lobby has rolled out a gauge of its own. The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) unveiled the Analysis of Data Location this weekend. The tool uses data collected by Placer.ai, a location analytics company that uses cell phone data to track foot traffic in and out of buildings. REBNY’s occupancy tool tracks occupancy at 250 office towers spanning all classes, with a total of 180 million square feet, which represents about one-third of Manhattan’s office inventory.
The coverage area differs from Kastle’s barometer, which surveys 200 office buildings including some suburban office complexes. However, while Kastle’s coverage excludes many buildings owned by Manhattan’s largest landlords, REBNY’s measuring tool includes properties owned by SL Green, Vornado, Brookfield Properties and Related Companies, among others. The first findings by the organization’s reporting tool found that trophy office buildings significantly outperformed other office properties last year. Occupancy rates in close to two-thirds of buildings exceeded 50 percent of pre-pandemic figures and showed a growing divide between occupancy in Class A and Class B buildings. Among the former, there was a 66.3 percent average visitation rate in 2022, compared with a 53.6 percent average in the latter. REBNY is planning to study the data on a deeper level in the coming months to get more specifics on things like office attendance on Mondays and Fridays, which has been the subject of much discussion.