Real Estate After Dark: How Landlords Can Tap into the Night Economy

June 13, 2023 4 Minute Read

Night Market

Landlords who aren’t participating in the night economy are sleeping on a huge opportunity for revenue-generation.

That was the takeaway from CBRE Tourism Consulting Senior Director Rebecca Godfrey’s roundtable at the recent Montreal Night Summit, a week-long event focused on enhancing the city’s night economy.

Godfrey’s panel discussed how to go about aligning the interests of the creative and real estate communities to bolster Montreal’s night economy. She believes there’s a symbiotic relationship to be built between the tourism industry and landlords looking to optimize their space after work hours.

“People visit cities to experience the local art and culture,” says Godfrey. “The night economy plays a big role in tourism and there’s great potential for landlords to benefit more from it.”

Rebecca Godfrey Montreal night summit
Photo Credit: Cedric Laurenty

What is the night economy?

The night economy, or night-time economy, encompasses the social, cultural, and economic activities that take place between 6 pm and 6 am. The main drivers of the night economy are entertainment and nightlife at concert venues, art galleries, restaurants and bars.

“The pandemic stunted the night economy, and many venues were forced to shut down,” Godfrey says. “We have an opportunity to build this economy back up using creativity and innovation.”

She suggests repurposing vacant warehouses and office building lobbies after hours. Building owners can animate empty spaces with temporary exhibits as they work on long-term plans, provided municipal zoning allows. Activating spaces with local art pop-ups or turning them into event venues comes with many benefits: it exposes the sites, operators, and artists to new crowds, increases building appeal for existing tenants, and provides landlords with additional revenue opportunities.

And since these buildings are often located outside of residential areas, they are less likely to irk neighbours with their after-hours programming.

“Evening entertainment can help entice people back to the office during the day and attract visitors at night,” Godfrey says.

A healthy night economy doesn't just provide after-work activities: it increases employment and vitality in cities.- Rebecca Godfrey

Early Movers

In New Delhi, one landlord is transforming three floors of office space into a dance club in the evening. In Amsterdam, a 19th century industrial complex has been repurposed as a cultural hub with bars, restaurants, and live music.

Where zoning regulations might restrict evening activities, landlords must be extra creative.

Those without alcohol licenses, for example, can opt for “healthy clubbing” or “conscious clubbing” events, where visitors dance and socialize booze-free. Brooklyn’s Public Records offers deep listening experiences to be enjoyed with non-alcoholic tonics and sustainable food options.

Landlords looking for temporary activation can enlist the services of creative entrepreneurs to animate their space in the evenings on a contractual basis.

In Montreal’s Old Port, landlords are partnering with local artists to highlight the area’s culture and heritage through light installations. This includes an immersive multimedia display inside the Notre-Dame Basilica, and the projection of scenes depicting the evolution of Montreal on buildings, trees and streets, part of the Cité Mémoire installation.

Night Mayor

Montreal isn’t the only Canadian city focusing on the rebuilding of its night economy.

The City of Ottawa recently introduced a new “night mayor” position to support the growth and development of its nightlife sector, only a few months after Vancouver announced its plan for a “night advocate” to work with local stakeholders on growing its night-time economy.

The “night mayor” concept was first adopted in Washington, D.C. in 2018, and has since been implemented in some of the world’s top nightlife destinations, including Amsterdam, London, and Prague.

Meanwhile, the City of Toronto has launched a night economy action plan, based on input from municipal representatives and night industry stakeholders. The plan outlines the importance of encouraging business owners to operate after dark by updating regulations and licensing for bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues, while at the same time promoting a safe environment for residents, workers, and visitors.

With the support of cities and the drive of local entrepreneurs, night owls will have much to look forward when work is over.

“A healthy night economy doesn’t just provide after-work activities; it increases employment and vitality in cities,” says Godfrey. “It’s a win-win for everyone – day or night.”

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