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As companies downsize space in hybrid world, what happens to all that office furniture?

Kavita Kumar, Star Tribune on

Published in Business News

The store sells at least a couple hundred of those older and less resale-valuable office chairs a month. In the fall, University of Minnesota students often swing by to snap one up for their dorm rooms. Other times it can be anyone from artists to nonprofits or even hunters looking for chairs for deer stands.

With plentiful supply and better marketing, Furnish Office and Home's sales have increased about 30% over the last two years, said Engdahl.

Eyeing an opportunity given how many offices are downsizing and relocating as their leases come up, the organization also spun out a related business in 2022 doing office cleanouts where it helps companies resell, recycle and in some cases dispose of their furniture. It's now doing about 20 of them a month, about double the volume from a year ago, he said.

It's hard to know how much office furniture ends up in landfills because it isn't tracked by the state, said Melissa Wenzel, built environment sustainability administrator for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

A 2018 study from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded that 17 billion pounds of office furniture goes to landfills each year, she said. But that was before the pandemic when offices were still fairly full.

Still, Wenzel said she sees more reuse happening. "There's a lot of innovation going on," she said.

 

After shuttering its City Center offices in downtown Minneapolis due to its shift to hybrid work, Target Corp. has been holding a series of auctions to find new homes for its cubicles, office chairs, couches and filing cabinets.

Wells Fargo is in the process of exiting its large home mortgage campus south of downtown Minneapolis. A company spokeswoman said the bank is waiting to see if the future buyer of the building may be interested in the office furniture.

Developer Sherman Associates is converting the nearly empty 13-story Northstar Center East office building in downtown Minneapolis and the Landmark Towers office building in downtown St. Paul into apartments. Valerie Doleman, a company senior vice president, said the company looked for ways to first reuse some of the furniture left in the building in its other properties.

"Simultaneously, we reached out to our network of not-for-profits and invited them to walk through the buildings and identify anything they need," she wrote in an email.

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