Commercial real estate, particularly in the retail market, has suffered badly due to the COVID-19 pandemic as public health restrictions have forced many businesses to close or scale back their operations.
Now, some real estate experts are suggesting that the vacant retail space could be used to provide tests or administer vaccines to help cities better respond to the pandemic.
In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this week, Rudin Management Company executive William Rudin said he’s aiming to transform vacant commercial spaces in New York City into rapid testing sites for COVID-19. He said that an increased availability of testing sites could encourage people to get tested before going back to work or venturing outside. That will lead to greater confidence as people get back to normal life, and in turn that would help boost the economy, he said.
“A person could show the restaurateur … ‘I just got tested 15 minutes ago and I’m good to go,’” Rudin told CNBC. “This is important for venues. … There’s a pent-up demand for people to want to come back to work and be with their colleagues and have that collaboration.”
Rudin, through his company, owns 16 commercial buildings in New York City. He said employees at Rudin Management are tested every two weeks for the virus. He pointed out that the Real Estate Board of New York is already working with the state governor’s office on a program to transform vacant retail sites into public health centers.
New York isn’t alone either. In New Jersey, a former Sears shopping store is currently being used to administer vaccines to the population there.