San Francisco Mid-Market Makes a Comeback

When PMI first started looking to purchase office buildings in 2003 in San Francisco, a couple of brokers tried to sell us buildings in San Francisco’s Mid-Market areas.  They said it was going to make a comeback.  Most others said that they had heard that for years.  The area had a large population of homeless people, homeless shelters, and single room occupancy housings.  We were told by all the cognoscenti to stay away.

In 2010, San Francisco boomed with tech tenants.  Super star tenants found it difficult to find very large blocks of space in prime areas like SoMa.  One of our tenants, Twitter, started in 6,000 square feet.  They were a runaway success and started shopping for 150,000 square feet with expansion options for another 150,000 square feet.  Twitter threatened to move out of San Francisco because of a city payroll tax that would tax stock options upon their exercise.  San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee set up Mid Market as a payroll tax-free zone.  Real Estate magnate Shorenstien Properties then purchased a million square foot clunker of a building in Mid Market, planned a creative office renovation, and made Twitter a deal they could not refuse.

Another one of our tenants, Zendesk, moved to Mid Market because we were out of space in our SoMa building.  Zendesk got a great deal and achieved their rent objectives.  Yammer, who is also our tenant, moved into the same building that Twitter did after Kilroy wanted too large a letter of credit as security (Yammer was recently purchased by Microsoft–who knew).

So why is it that Mid-Market succeeded this time?  Primarily it is because Twitter became a magnet that attracted other tech tenants.  Mayor Lee and Shorenstien Properties offered Twitter such a fantastic deal they would have been crazy not to accept it.  This was done during a market where creative space was running low because tech business was booming.

In the New Geography of Jobs, Berkeley professor of economics Enrico Moretti comments that super star companies attract other super stars and even “wanna-be” companies like a magnet.  Indeed, he attributes the success of Seattle in tech to the fact that Bill Gates decided to relocate there to scale Microsoft.  In San Francisco, Twitter was the super star and it attracted other companies, like Yammer, among others.  The payroll tax-free zone and a landlord willing to give a cost leader to attract a super star helped.

Here is an article from Reuben and Junius expanding more on the rebirth of Mid-Market.

The Future of Office Workspace: Less is More

Some may argue that office space in West Los Angeles has become too plentiful. Soft markets, when there is an excess of supply over demand, occur about 80% of the time.  Conversely, tight markets occur about 20% of the time.  Los Angeles brokers and building owners have to face the reality that demand has been decreasing over the last two decades.  This industry is very mature, and it may be time for a change.  As this article from CoStar Group points out, one of the changes that should be made in office design is to accommodate the needs of the next workforce generation.  Unfortunately, the next generation demands less, not more, office space per employee.

To add value to their properties, Westside Los Angeles office owners will need to design spaces that operate with greater efficiency.  They will also have to account for greater densities of employees in these spaces.  These two tasks need to be accomplished simultaneously while continuing to foster an interesting and creative atmosphere.  These environments will further promote collaboration and will have a positive effect on employees rather than sticking them in cubicle farms.

The Westside does not need more space, but simply better quality of space. Despite a 20% vacancy rate in Playa Vista, developers are planning to bring on another million square feet of office space in the next couple of years.  If the future workforce demands less space, one may question why this is being planned.  Investors, developers and owners have to ask themselves if they are meeting a tenant demand or investor demand.

Corporations Aim to Merge Creative Space with Newest Startup Acquisitions

PMI has edgy creative buildings with a lot of startups as tenants.  These startups are attracted to PMI’s creative spaces in smaller buildings.  We emphasize great architecture and build communities for the tenants to interact with each other.  Many of our tenants over the years have been acquired as a method of their exit:  Applied Semantics, AZ Razorfish, Guardian Edge, Apture, Playdom, Techcrunch, and Doubleclick to name a few.

Once these firms are acquired, the corporations want the firm to integrate into the ‘mothership’.  They will either wait for the new acquisition’s lease to expire, try to sublease the space, or offer a buyout option.  These large corporations have facility managers who also demand a different set of services.  They want a state of the art security service and will sacrifice the edgy aesthetics to achieve it.  Sometimes the acquired company fights for their independence within the corporate structure.  These companies want to keep an identity and culture separate from the acquirer.  Zappos is a classic case of such a company.  They stayed true to their culture when they were acquired by Amazon.  In fact, Amazon actually strongly encouraged Zappos to stay true to their roots– it was part of what made them so unique and special in today’s Internet marketplace.

Another example is that in PMI’s buildings, Techcrunch renewed their lease versus moving into an AOL facility.  Keeping their old digs was one way for Techcrunch to retain their independence from AOL and maintain a separate culture at the same time.

Overall, corporations keep their goal of wanting to move the new startup acquisition to a space that falls more in line with the main, home office of the corporation.  This occurs at the same time as having the startup stay true to their founding identity and what made them so attractive to acquire in the first place.  A balance between the two needs to be maintained and sometimes it is a fine line to reach.

Stylespot Graduates from 10951 Pico Creative Penthouse Space

PMI’s former tenant Stylespot.com went from small offices to grand success in the past few years.  Stylespot helps consumers link celebrity photos with stores that sell the fashions worn by the celebutants.  Stylespot started in a 300 square foot office in PMI’s highly creative Penthouse suites, which resemble a New York Penthouse.  Stylespot informs visitors about what their favorite celebrities wore, where they can buy it, or how to get the look for less.  On their website, there are separate areas for visitors to shop for outfits specific celebrities have worn, a way to put a certain look together based on the designer or what celebrity fashionista vistors gravitate towards, and a way to discover the trends in pop culture fashion.

Stylespot, founded by Rafi Gordon and Alex Amin, was venture backed by Idealab when it was founded in 2009.  It has recently been acquired by Kaboodle, the online social shopping site owned by Hearst Corporation.  Kaboodle announced the acquisition late Friday, February 3rd.  Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.   According to Kaboodle, Gordon and Amin will continue as co-CEOs of the company, operating as an individual website Kaboodle also said that its Chief Operating Officer, Steven Chien, will report to Gordon as part of the merger. Together, these two companies are now known as Image Network, Inc.  Gordon and Amin’s prior company was Baseline Research, which they sold to the New York Times Company in 2006.

Congratulations to Stylespot.  We wish them all the success.

Inside view of 10951 Pico Building, where Stylespot grew from.

PMI has provided creative office space for many other successful startups in Los Angeles and San Francisco in their early phase. Some well known tenants include Twitter, Applied Semantics, Aperture and Playdom. Check out our full list of tenants in this article.

Wall Street Journal Spotlights PMI Properties’ Harrison Building

PMI Properties’ newest acquisition, 642 Harrison in San Francisco, was featured in a Wall Street Journal article last month.  The article spotlights the burgeoning SoMa district in San Francisco and the rapid growth that buildings in the area are experiencing within the last year.

PMI Properties was able to snag Harrison before the prices started to rise in SoMa. Compared to other agencies who paid $330 and $423 a square foot, PMI was able to purchase Harrison at $265 a square foot. The early mover’s advantage definitely was key in this transaction.

In order to attract new tenants to the space at Harrison, we renovated the second floor, created new PMI Properties banners for the outside of the building, and appealed to tech and digital media companies with vintage Time magazine posters of a young Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in the foyer. With the diminishing vacancy rate in the SoMa district, businesses are searching frantically to lease space.  The pricing game has become increasingly competitive as well, as evidenced by PMI’s recent lease negotion process with our newest tenant, Opower.

Overall, SoMa has blossomed into a tech and digital media mecca, with PMI’s Harrison right at the center. We are thrilled to be providing space to creative tenants who continue to cultivate amazing ideas and innovations.

To read the entire Wall Street journal article, please click here.

Innovative Companies Undergo Artistic Renovations to Maintain Creative Edge

A recent article published from Bloomberg.org discusses the rise of creative space throughout major cities.  The resurgence of the digital technology sector has created a demand for this type of creative office space.  This time around, major developers and institutional investors acknowledge this trend and have driven down the yields on this product.  Certain features of the space are leading to new ways of working, especially for firms with employees who spend a lot of time on computers or mobile devices.  This is a shift from a traditional office environment where employees focus their time in small conference rooms or on the telephone.  At PMI, we continue to strive for our spaces to promote creativity, collaboration, and the ability to scale if needed.

In all of about 15 years in Los Angeles, there were only about three or four developers doing this. PMI was one of them.  None of them were institutions.  It was hard to get financing as the lenders believed this type of office design was a fad.  PMI was able to buy Marina Studios because the lender who foreclosed could not figure out what exactly Marina was or how it should be used.  It did not work as an industrial building and it did not look like offices.  PMI was able to take control of the building, effectively design and market it, and we now currently maintain a fully leased building.

The full article outlines more of the characteristics of these new, emerging offices.