In the first Q&A to ever appear on these pages, Duda Paine Architects principal Jeff Paine effused optimism that Atlanta’s next true skyscraper was likely to move forward soon, despite a lingering pandemic and general reluctance to head back to offices en masse.

Nearly a year and a 1/2 later, the 45-story shard at 50 Allen Plaza—dubbed “Fifty” for short—still hasn’t begun its ascension over the downtown Connector. But at an associated property next door, recent leasing activity is evidence that downtown’s office market is healthy and that WFO (work from office) culture could be making a broader comeback, according to leasing officials.

After negotiating two new leases at 55 Allen Plaza, a 14-story building located a block east of Centennial Olympic Park, officials with Lincoln Property Company Southeast noted that downtown was Atlanta’s only submarket to finish Q1 this year with a positive office absorption. Having added more than 28,000 square feet of leased space, downtown’s vacancy rate stood at 19.1 percent, lower than both Midtown and Buckhead, per Lincoln reps.

Still, that vacancy rate remains up substantially from the first quarter of 2020, when 12.6 percent of downtown offices were vacant, according to Colliers International statistics.

55 Allen Plaza, overlooking the downtown Connector. Courtesy of Lincoln Property Company Southeast

Officials with Lincoln, part of Dallas-based commercial real estate firm and developer Lincoln Property Company, pointed to a recent Microsoft report that 50 percent of business heads say employees are either required to show up for in-person work now or will be within the next year.

The 55 Allen Plaza leases come “as office buildings across the city are once again seeing briefcases and blazers as people head back to in-person meetings and work,” as one Lincoln rep put it.

The bulk of those leases, totaling 20,191 square feet, were signed with Maryland-based homebuilding construction firm DRB Group. A personal injury attorney group, McArthur Law Firm, signed on for a 3,111-square-foot space.

Perks such as MARTA connectivity, Connector access, skyline views, an enclosed parking lot, and an onsite café, dry cleaning, and auto-detail salon have helped lure “a number of new tenants” in the past year, per Lincoln officials.

All of this makes for an opportune time to put the question to the people of metro Atlanta: What are you seeing out there, when it comes to office life and associated activity?

Are you reading this from a cubicle now? Is the clock ticking on when your WFH privileges/mandates will expire? Or are you never going back to commutes, briefcase, blazers, and more traditional workplace settings?

Recent downtown news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)