Commercial Real Estate

The Empire State Building boasts 2.1 million square feet of rentable space. Any idea how much rentable space in all of North America?

I sell and lease commerical real estate for a living and it’s my business to know what’s out there and how much of it is available.

I’m sure there is a statistic somewhere purporting to index this, but take it with a huge pickup truck sized grain of salt. Anytime some local professor, economic development entity or official hazards a guess as to how much space is available locally or regionally (much less how much of that is “rentable”) they are almost always wildly wrong, and cobbling these figures together for a national number is not likely to be all that more accurate.

Pardon my lack of clarity. I’m not looking for a number of how much space is actually vacant, but how much space is rentable (that is, either leased, or vacant and available for lease).

Any ballpark number of the total square footage in commercial space will do (even if it’s a really, really big ballpark).

I also work in commercial real estate. Here’s couple of things we ought to get sorted out first:

1.) What are you calling “commercial” real estate? I’ll often call any piece of real estate that isn’t single-family residential commercial real estate, do you only mean office space? Do you include retail space, such as malls and power centers? What about industrial space?

2.) What are you calling “rentable”? In the real estate business, “rentable space” has a very specific meaning, but it seems like you just mean either space that is currently leased or available for lease. Us commercial real estate folks typically call rentable space “whatever the owner of the building could rent out” whether it’s intended for owner-occupancy or not.

If you only want to know the sum of leased commercial real estate and vacant for lease real estate in the U.S., well, it would take me the better part of a week of research just to calculate that figure for single square mile of a city, much less the whole of the U.S.

Off the top of my head though, I would imagine the number is somewhere in the trillions. Or maybe significantly less… or more…

I can also tell you as a guy that works with these people day-in, day-out, that even if every property owner in the United States reported these figures to the Census Bureau, we still wouldn’t have a very accurate picture. In my experience, a lot of these people have difficulty with simple geometry… the other day I had to calculate the area of a quadrilateral for one of my co-workers, and he acted like this was the greatest feat of sorcery he had ever seen.

Yes, I am in fact meaning all commercial space. Industrial condos, high- and low-rise offic buildings, regional malls, power centres, strip malls…the works.

Again, my clarity was what was lacking. When I was talking “leased”, I really meant “occupied”.

I wasn’t really looking for a real number. More along the lines of “There are 5.5 billion people in the world” not “the last census shows us at 200,258,532 citizens”. Nobody really knows how many people there are. I was just wondering if someone had access to some information produced by some organization who might like to say things like “there is 900 billion square feet of commerical space in North America” or something along those lines.