Downtown activity hasn’t quite returned to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, but according to a new report from the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, it has slowly begun to rebound.
Historically, the city’s Golden Triangle has seen an average of 130,000 people pass through it daily. In February, almost 77,000 people visited the area on any given day. This is the highest since the start of the pandemic and around 55% of February 2019 levels.
Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership President and CEO Jeremy Waldrup said February visitor estimates show a 73% recovery leveldriven largely by local cultural events and the slow return of businesses to the office.
“So while we would certainly like to see this happen more quickly, the fact that we’ve seen significant increases over the past few months is encouraging,” he said, noting that Pittsburgh’s attendance rates are moving in tandem. to cities of similar size.
But some downtown restaurants said the increase in numbers was not necessarily helping business stability. They still face declining customer numbers, rising food prices and other uncertainties two years into the pandemic.
“We’re everywhere,” said Christina Hammerling, owner of the downtown Apollo Café.
Before the pandemic, Mondays were slow and Fridays busy.
“Now we see people working [from] home on Mondays and Fridays, and we have to pack everything for those three days [in between],” she says.
The changes made it difficult to adequately staff the restaurant.
“Monday we were watching the paint dry, today [Wednesday] we were busy,” Hammerling said. “So I could have used an extra hand today. It’s so hard to assess.”
The Apollo Café has seen around 75% of its customers return. When companies with downtown offices change their return-to-office dates, it affects Hammerling’s business plans.
Waldrup estimates the downtown area has lost 21% of its small businesses in the past two years and said it could take years for the area to fully rebound. When it does, it will probably look quite different.
“The city center is about 77% dedicated to commercial offices,” he said. “Should we move on? Should this number drop to 55%? And what would that do to the real estate market here? »
Many people returning to their downtown offices may be on a hybrid schedule, and some may not return at all.
Waldrup and Hammerling said they were preparing for a future downtown that could have more residential buildings, less office space and changing needs.
“Downtown has changed forever,” Hammerling said. “We’re just waiting for the rebound and I don’t even know what it’s going to look like.”
See the full report here.