Government regulations limit our ability to transition office space into residential units, according to real estate experts surveyed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As many communities look to repurpose existing commercial spaces into alternative housing solutions, Cheyenne must at least consider these innovative space conversion opportunities.
WY We Care: Your Cheyenne Chamber conducted a housing study in 2019, and at the time, we needed 3,000 homes to catch up with demand. We are revisiting a housing study in 2023 to discern the current demand signal for housing. Innovative solutions that repurpose existing and underutilized structures in our community show potential for easing housing strain in the Cheyenne Market.
If Hybrid Workers Are Here to Stay
Flexible and hybrid workspaces for offsite teams will continue to grow over the next five years, and this leaves traditional office environments as severely underutilized square footage. However, the conversion of offices to housing is more complicated and expensive than it seems. Some of the barriers are physical, like layouts and floor plan configurations, but some are in the control of local governments, especially zoning, permitting, and environmental regulations.
46% of commercial real estate professionals indicate that zoning and permitting are impacting their ability to convert current office spaces into other uses. Despite this, 71% of builders and 68% of architects are receiving more frequent requests to convert existing office space for a different use.
Raise the Roof
Providing greater certainty in the permitting process could unleash private sector investment in projects across our state for both conversion projects and new construction.
“[First, we need] to know what the requirements are, have a reasonable timeline for approval, and a reliable outcome when requirements are met. An inefficient and unreliable permitting process adds unnecessary costs and delays to [housing] projects,” said Jason Stephen, owner of Gateway Construction, LLC.
Shifting requirements cause common problems for builders in Cheyenne. More than one local construction company has passed inspection on a project only to find upon completion they do not fit guidelines that were never mentioned or enforced during earlier stages of planning and construction. This incurs huge delays and costs as they have to conduct renovations on otherwise completed projects.
How To Change The World
Your Cheyenne Chamber works with lots of local elected officials. We are fortunate that many of them are responsive to the business community and are our partners seeking for answers for the future. Your Chamber is committed to continuing these conversations to find the best path forward for Cheyenne. Your Chamber is on the frontlines of this issue, working with nation-wide partners and meeting with your representatives to get the job done. Learn more about our work at CheyenneChamber.org, or call 307-638-3388 to find out how you can support our mission and protect Wyoming’s future.
Story by J. Elizabeth Bennett
Elizabeth Bennett serves the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce as the Director of Marketing and Communications. She is passionate about working with the diverse communities in Cheyenne and creating accessible communications material that engages our chamber members.