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2021 Commercial Land Use Outlook

2021 is shaping up as a great year to acquire or repurpose commercial property.

A number of anticipated post-pandemic trends may make 2021 a year of opportunity for businesses seeking to acquire or repurpose property.

The nature of 2020 and its challenges to land use and development have been well-documented. We will not revisit that here. Instead, we are looking to 2021 and beyond with an eye to the unique opportunities that will be available to current and prospective commercial landowners. While the pandemic will continue to impact land development for the next few months, we can now look at some likely post-pandemic trends and examine how they may provide opportunity for businesses.

First, it appears the move toward remote working will likely continue, at least in the short term. While some companies will be eager to reassemble their teams on-site, many others are seeing value from work-from-home policies. This is hardly surprising, as remote working was already a growing part of office culture. For land use and development, this means we will likely see an increase in available office space. As the demand for office space continues to slow, it is also likely that these spaces will be repurposed into other uses. Depending on the property, this may lead to an increase in special land use and rezoning applications.

Second, there will be significant changes to the retail and restaurant industry. In some ways, retail has been adjusting to the rising trend of e-commerce for years. However, the impact of stay-home orders cannot be overstated. It is estimated that roughly 2,000 restaurants closed permanently in Michigan in 2020, with another 6,000 possible in the next six months if conditions do not improve. This has resulted in vacant restaurant space.

Most industry experts expect the restaurant industry to recover when local restrictions are lifted. This, combined with available space, presents an opportunity for new restaurants to open. Similarly, there should be ample space available for new retail. It will also be important for new retail to distinguish its in-store experience from e-commerce options. Unique spaces and uses will be important.

Finally, the pandemic spurred many municipalities to be flexible with their land use and zoning regulations. Many of these changes proved successful, such as easing restrictions on outdoor dining for restaurants. At least some of this flexibility will likely be continued into 2021 and possibly beyond. This flexibility will allow retail and restaurants to be more creative in what they can offer customers. Business owners should be sure to explore what new options are available to them.

In short, 2021 looks to hold many opportunities for businesses seeking to acquire or repurpose property. We look forward to continuing to partner with businesses and individuals in helping them to realize their goals. If you are looking to acquire new space in 2021 or beyond, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to speak with you.

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