Eighteen years ago, I was told that creative offices were a fad that would go away. Just after the dot com bust, it almost seemed like it would go away. However, creative office is the de rigueur, not the exception. Absorption and occupancy for creative office is rising; absorption and demand for traditional office is falling.
So many owners with traditional offices are attempting a conversion to a “soft creative office”. In soft creative, many of the aspect of open and collaborative space planning are incorporated with exposition of the natural elements of the building, including exposed higher ceilings. However, not all tenants have embraced “creative offices”. You may, in fact, alienate your more traditional tenants as you transition to a more informal, creative environment. This problem is similar to the problems encountered when mixing medical and general office tenants.
PMI Properties is in the process of transitioning a traditional office building in WLA into a soft creative office building. Creative tenants now occupy 70% of the space, and traditional tenants occupy the balance of the space. We have introduced creative design elements and furnishing into this formerly traditional office building. These elements, among others, include polished concrete or hardwood floors, and exposed steel beams. We replaced the acoustical ceilings with drywall and the 2 x 4 foot parabolic lighting with recessed lights or indirect pendants. We elected not to go with an exposed ceiling so as to appeal to a wider variety of tenant and avoid problems with fireproofing the lid.
We have received push back from some of the traditional tenants as to some of the features desired by creative tenants as well as to the creative tenants themselves:
“Does PMI really think that the newly-installed ‘swimsuits optional’ artwork opposite the restrooms on our floor are appropriate in a business office environment? While it does somewhat correlate with the ‘beach’ theme of the other artwork on our floor, it certainly projects a rather unprofessional image, and surprises me that [name deleted] would choose it and PMI would install it. It seems more like something that the boys in 204 might put up in their suite to go along with their ping pong table and office beagles.
Also, how much longer is the Foosball table going to be in that hallway? It’s been there nearly a month now, maybe longer. Do you know why it’s there, who it belongs to, and what the plan is for getting it out of the common space?”
So my suggestion is to prepare to lose some tenants when transitioning an office from traditional to creative or introduce elements that both can live with. However, in the later case, you may end up with something that truly satisfies nobody.