After spending the holidays in Maryland, I’m back at the “home office” (my bedroom) and starting what could be another year of remote work. We’ve written a lot about how remote work could change Philadelphia, from the ripple effect on restaurants and retail to the city’s wage tax collections. This week, we examine how it could transform vacant office buildings.

Some imagine a future for Philadelphia’s business district as a new neighborhood in the sky, with bedrooms where cubicles used to be. Others believe the city’s growing life sciences industry could convert unused offices into laboratories. But these alternatives are not without challenges.

If you know of any Philly-area office buildings that could turn into something new, email me back here. And if this email was forwarded to you, you can sign up here to get this newsletter each week.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year.

— Christian Hetrick (@_Hetrick, businessweekly@inquirer.com)

COVID’s legacy could empty out the office towers of Philly’s Center City

The remote work trend will likely continue beyond the pandemic, meaning employers will need less office space. So what will Philly do with its giant office towers if many workers never return?

One idea is to convert them to residential multi-family buildings. Older buildings are relatively easy to turn into apartments. But a lot of the city’s remaining towers are not ideally suited for housing, with huge amounts of space that have no access to natural light.

Some architects don’t have such a dim view on all this dark interior space. Potential options include at-home theaters, libraries full of light-sensitive tomes, or gallery space with artworks that can’t be exposed to sun.

Still, if housing proves too difficult for many modern office towers, laboratory space for Philly’s expanding life sciences sector could be a viable alternative. There isn’t enough lab space to meet demand in the Philadelphia region.

Read more about the future of Center City’s hulking towers.

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Successful startup: Run A Better Set, a Philly software firm, has been used on roughly 250 movies and shows, including by studios producing ‘Mare of Easttown,’ ‘King Richard,’ and ‘Succession.’

RIP: Jeff Guaracino, the CEO of Visit Philadelphia and a tourism leader who worked to boost the economies of Philly and Atlantic City, died last week after fighting cancer.

More day workers: At the Home Depot off Roosevelt Boulevard, immigrants and casual employers negotiate for cheap labor. More men are showing up there for work.

Inflation nation: Gene Marks, our small business columnist, has seven tips on how to protect your firm from inflation.

Not stranded: Thousands of flights around the world were canceled after Christmas as airline staffers called out sick with COVID-19. Philadelphia travelers were largely spared from the holiday disruptions.

Big deal: A New York real estate firm paid $120 million for a Center City senior housing complex, known as the American Postal Workers House.

Public bank: State law prevents Philadelphia from directly establishing a public bank. But a city councilmember is proposing a workaround that involves creating a new Philadelphia Public Finance Authority.