New York store closure
(Photo : Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit New York, more than a thousand chain stores shut down its operation due to the lack of buyers because of lockdown restrictions. Instead of leaving these commercial properties empty, authorities are looking into putting these spaces into good use. 

As FOX reported, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) plans to use the vacant commercial real estate as COVID-19 rapid testing sites. 

REBNY President James Whelan said that their team is already working on making this plan a possibility to help curve and end the ongoing health crisis. 

"REBNY and our members are working closely with state officials to begin offering free space for rapid testing centers in retail spaces and large commercial buildings," Whelan told the news outlet. 

"We are committed to significantly expanding this effort over the coming months, as increasing access to rapid testing will play a crucial role in our City's economic recovery, as the governor stated," he added.

Inevitable Closure of New York

New York city
(Photo : Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Based on REBNY's Fall 2020 retail report, because of the increasing New York commercial real estate vacancies, all 17 Manhattan retail stretch also experienced a decrease in asking rents from one to 25 percent. 

As per the Center for an Urban Future report, most of these stores are chain retailers. Last month, the data shows that more than 1,000 New York retail stores shut down in 2020. 

"Overall, the number of chain stores in New York City declined by 13.3 percent-with 2.0 percent closing temporarily and 11.3 percent not indicating whether the closures are permanent or temporary," the report reads.

The inevitable closures come as COVID-19 continues to spread in the US, particularly in New York.

These vacant New York commercial real estate spaces make a perfect site for rapid coronavirus testing. According to the data gathered by Johns Hopkins University, the city has been getting almost 20,000 tests per day with a positivity rate of 6.65 percent.

As of writing, New York COVID-19 data has recorded a total of 1,179,266 confirmed cases with 40,192. 

Government's Initiative

Prada store
(Photo : Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images)

During Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State last week, aside from mass testings and COVID-19 vaccination, the city is also gearing up with the essential reopening of the economy in the coming months.

"Rapid testing not only saves lives, but it is key to our economic reopening plan. We will open a network of new rapid testing sites all across the state."

Converting Office and Hotel to New York Apartments

During the same address, Cuomo also said that the health crisis could be an excellent opportunity for Manhattan's central business district to innovate and address the shortage in affordable housing. 

Since the pandemic has put the tourism industry on hold, and employees continue to work from home, most of the spaces were left empty to prevent further spreading the COVID-19.

"The housing problem in our cities has worsened. But the crisis of growing vacancies in our commercial property provides an opportunity. We should convert vacant commercial spaces into affordable, supportive housing, and we should do it now," Andrew Cuomo said.

According to the New York Post, Cuomo's office will create five years plan allowing midtown Manhattan landlords to convert their commercial spaces into residential properties.

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