By: Kristine Hurlbut, Senior Vice President of Leasing
What do we do with the aging stock of suburban office space in New Jersey? It’s a question that keeps many owners and operators up at night. What can we do to attract companies to these antiquated office parks while so much of the talent they are looking to attract and retain want to be closer to urban centers with accessibility to mass transit and walkable downtown areas?
Short of picking up and moving some of these assets closer to urban centers I am afraid that there are properties that are not likely going to remain in the office stock for too much longer. The price PSF is so low that more creative companies will likely acquire and re-imagine the spaces for mixed-use. This could mean retail shops, restaurants, multi-family residential units or medical office. Some of the assets will have to be torn down and reconstructed completely as the entire value of the property will be in the land and not the aging and empty office building that sits on it.
If you have an asset that is in a prime suburban location, there are certain things you can do to increase the volume of potential tenants. It is important to recognize that these recommendations will not reduce vacancy overnight, but will make your assets much more competitive in the marketplace.
Give your asset more of an urban feel. Ditch the rose-colored granite that currently adorns your bathrooms and foyer and replace it with something edgier and more modern. Maybe a mural from a local artist or a mosaic tile piece. Open up the entrance space if you can and try and create a more lounge type feel that encourages people to work and meet in the space. Collaboration is the key to most millennial minded companies.
Another thing that will differentiate your office space is amenities. Think ping pong tables and foosball. Gyms are great if they are full gyms, but if you have two treadmills that are 10+ years old, it might be time to throw some bean bag chairs and a popcorn machine in that space. Technology and connectivity are important as well. Introduce technology in any way you can through shared conference spaces, tenant lounges, interactive building directories and charging stations for laptops, tablets, and phones.
Look beyond traditional office spaces. Rooftop lounges are becoming more and more popular in suburban offices and over the next few years will become an expected amenity among tenants.
Consider starting a shuttle service to and from mass transit as a way of making commuting easier and more attractive to today’s talent pool. Redesign common spaces to include a coffee bar and /or cafe with outside seating or look for creative ways to bring options in by partnering with local food trucks.
Creativity is key and, while your vacancies might not fill up overnight, you will have a lot more volume and velocity which will put you in the best situation possible to succeed in leasing your urbanized suburban spaces.