Guest post by Andrew Farbman, CEO, Farbman Group
With an increasingly competitive Midwest office market continuing to perform well, there is renewed interest in different categories of office product in the region. In the last 12 to 18 months, quality suburban office has really started to take off. With millennial workplace preferences being top of mind for senior leaders today, and a great deal of focus being directed on urban/downtown assets, leveraging and promoting the positive attributes of high-quality suburban office product is all the more important. Understanding what is working to attract companies to these types of products, and what specific assets and strategies are resonating with potential tenants, is critical for real estate professionals looking to position their properties for success.
The following property and positioning priorities have proven to be an effective way to elevate suburban office product, ensuring it stands out from the crowd:
Choose an energetic and exciting location
It might seem obvious, but prioritizing locations that foster a modern, productive, enjoyable working environment should be Job 1A. It does not matter how nice the building is if the surrounding environment is sub-par.
Convenience is your friend
Convenience is also a key factor. A growing segment of the millennial demographic in today’s workforce is choosing to live in urban settings and take public transit instead of driving. With that in mind, successful office product has to offer a valid alternative, and choosing a convenient location near expressways/direct routes is important. Be sure to select sites with ample parking, and highlight the convenience of that amenity when promoting your property. When evaluating sites, consider not only how convenient the commute is, but also how convenient the area is. Is it developed? Is there access to public transportation? Are there nearby places for employees to gather on a lunch break or after work with co-workers? An abundance of nearby restaurants, cafés, bars and recreational facilities goes a long way toward making a location more desirable.
Take advantage of mixed-use properties
One tactic that can help address the location, environmental appeal and convenience factors referenced above is to look for those suburban locations that are zoned for mixed-use. An area with the capacity to develop restaurants, retail and other amenities nearby (preferably within walking distance) is more likely to provide a vibrant and dynamic environment–and to be a good investment in the long run.
Highlight existing amenities
Millennials are looking at more than just their office space in the buildings in which they work. Quality amenities remain a key factor. Popular amenities include technology equipped conference spaces and lobby areas, great places to eat, appealing outdoor areas to gather/relax on breaks, in-building or nearby fitness centers, etc. Capitalize on existing amenities by aggressively highlighting them, paying special attention to those that are associated with suburban offices, including abundant and convenient parking, cheaper rents, nearby green spaces and recreational amenities.
Combine private and community spaces
Millennials appreciate spaces that allow them to gather together in a comfortable setting that enhances teamwork and fosters creativity. Collaboration brings better results and can be achieved by creating compelling and appealing common spaces in everything from conference rooms to dining areas. But even those who thrive in open environments where teams can gather need the occasional quiet, private areas to complete their work responsibilities. It is critical to provide a good balance of engaging public spaces and quiet private retreats in your property.
Provide flexibility and celebrate personality
Work to create a flexible space that accommodates a diversity of people and personalities. To the extent possible, try to make each space different. Uniformity is not only boring, it subtly suggests to employees that they are not special or recognized for being unique. Along those same lines, try to move away from generic, sterile workspaces and use design and décor to warm up the environment. For example: exposed wood ceilings, interesting (but still comfortable) furniture, a unique or eye-catching focus wall, and desks that stray from the standard commercial office feel are all great ways to add warmth and interest to a space. One subtle but effective technique is to add residential style furniture into the mix to portray a sense of permanence and comfort.
Use character and context to your advantage
Choose interesting locations. One of the best ways to do so is to identify opportunities to develop and/or lease high-quality office space in buildings that have history and character. Taking a building that was formerly used as something else (e.g. a warehouse, freight facility, mill, historic mall, etc.) and highlighting its character when transforming it into contemporary office space is a great way to add interest and appeal. The Midwest’s booming office market is being fueled at least in part by its growing status as a viable and appealing destination for high-tech companies and startups. The entrepreneurial vibrancy and growing reputation for creativity and innovation have been a critical component of the Midwest’s office resurgence. Creative buildings and properties with unique history or character play into that narrative perfectly.
Founded in 1976, Farbman Group is a full-service real estate firm handling all facets of real estate transactions, from property management and leasing to acquisition and disposition. The firm manages more than 25 million square feet of office, retail, multi-family and industrial space throughout the Midwest.