Farbman Group making an impact with spec office suites, shared work spaces

by Dan Rafter

An example of Farbman Group's spec office suites, this one located at 200 W. Monroe St. in downtown Chicago.

An example of Farbman Group’s spec office suites, this one located at 200 W. Monroe St. in downtown Chicago.

Finding small office suites in major cities — suites ranging from 800 square feet to 1,000 square feet — can be a challenge today. Southfield, Mich.-based Farbman Group, though, has created new options for businesses seeking these smaller spaces.

First, Farbman Group has converted an entire floor of an office building in Chicago into a series of small suites with shared kitchens, conference rooms and meeting spaces. Small companies, then, can rent out the offices while sharing the common areas with their fellow tenants.

Secondly, the company has begun offering spec office suites in the same city. Farbman Group’s office building at 200 W. Monroe St. in downtown Chicago offers a range of of these spec suites, from office space that is move-in ready and fully furnished to spaces that are mostly empty shells that tenants can customize to meet their needs.

The two programs offer another option for small businesses or start-ups looking for smaller offices in Chicago.

Farbman Group's spec office suites don't feature closed-off corner offices.

Farbman Group’s spec office suites don’t feature closed-off corner offices.

Farbman Group has taken the shared-space approach with an office building at 209 W. Jackson in the heart of downtown Chicago. The company converted the entire sixth floor into 15 small office suites with a shared kitchenette and conference room. Five of the 15 offices are leased already, even though Farbman only recently listed the space.

Andrew Farbman, chief executive officer of the Farbman Group, says that this arrangement is perfect for start-up businesses.

“Most new companies or smaller companies don’t know how big they want to become,” Farbman said. “They don’t know how much space they’ll need. But they need space to create. We are trying to give them this opportunity. It’s a complete opposite approach to leasing. We are looking for shorter-term commitments on the side of landlords and tenants.”

A typical office lease in the city of Chicago runs for five to 10 years, depending on the size of the office space, Farbman said. Under Farbman’s arrangement at 209 W. Jackson St., the leases are much shorter, and might even run for just a year.

“Those longer leases are a big commitment for companies that don’t necessarily know what the future looks like,” Farbman said.

The arrangement at 209 W. Jackson provides flexibility. And that’s the same benefit that Farbman Group’s spec-office program at 200 W. Monroe St. in downtown Chicago offers.

Farbman has discovered that most small businesses today want the same things from their

An open kitchen at 200 W. Monroe St.

An open kitchen at 200 W. Monroe St.

office space: They want open environments, an open kitchen, collaborative areas and fewer enclosed office spaces. They want their cubicles to be more open than in the past with lower walls to help create a more collaborative atmosphere.

And because Farbman Group knows this, it’s easier for the company to create spec office suites that will attract a large number of clients.

“My dad’s generation wanted three people for every 1,000 square feet,” Farbman said. “They wanted corner offices. My generation is moving more toward the open office environment. Today, people want five to seven people for every 1,000 square feet. They don’t want those corner offices. There’s less privacy and more openness. That’s been a great thing. It allows for more collaborative thinking. And it’s easier to spec office suites than it ever has been.”

Farbman group has created four spec office suites in the last six months at 200 W. Monroe. The company has leased all of them either upon or before completing them. The program has been successful enough to inspire Farbman Group to build more spec office suites in the building.

“This program has helped us learn what tenants want today in their office space,” Farbman said. “Today’s tenants make faster decisions. The ability to be able to supply office product on an immediate basis versus making tenants wait six months for a build-out gives us a big advantage.”

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