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.

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.

Designing Offices for Digital Technology Companies

We rent office space on the Westside of Los Angeles and in San Francisco to digital technology companies.  Our tenants include or have included Twitter, Google, DoubleClick, Yammer, Scribd, Applied Semantics, Microsoft, and Eventbrite.  Much has changed from the dot-com days.  Today, the three factors that are important for the design of these spaces are creative environments, densification, and collaboration.  Spaces are open to allow for the ability to scale to densities of up to 10 people per 1000 square feet.  Although the company may start out at 4 people per 1000 square feet, the ability to scale within the space will enable to firm to expand without taking on additional space and without moving.  To allow this densification, the space should have good light, open areas, and a lot of power and outlets.  Higher ceiling volumes with open structural elements help reduce the feeling of being cramped into a tight area.  Although liner table arrangements are the most efficient, undulating plans have also worked and reduce monotony.

Diagram from the dot-com days.

Creatively remodeled office space.

In the dot-com days, designers used circular and angle offices to create visual interest.  Today, these designs reduce the efficiency of the floor plan.  Designers now use the natural beauty of the physical structure, colors, textures, and lighting to create visual interest.

Large, high partition work stations have given way to interconnected non-partitioned tables where groups of designers sit together in close proximity.  Email, texts, and social networking have replaced audio phone use and hence eliminated the need for partitions.  Enclosed spaces are used primarily for conferences, group meetings, and other collaborations.  These enclosed meeting spaces average about 1 per 1000 square feet.

Yammer Collarboration Area at PMI's 410 Townsend in San Francisco.

Collaboration spaces have become more important in offices today.  People are used to collaborating in cafés; now designers are incorporating the “café look” into the office design.  Today workers come from the Starbucks generation where coffee houses are iconic symbols of collaborative settings.

Kitchens have expanded into highly designed café settings in very visible locations.

Kitchen at PMI's 3525 Eastham in Culver City.

Kitchen at TechCrunch at PMI's 410 Townsend in San Francisco.

This is a refreshing contrast to the kitchens of the past, relegated to a hidden enclosed corner with vinyl floors and fluorescent lights.  Several companies, some as small as 40 people, have dining areas that can fit much of the company’s employees.  They also require company lunches several times a month or even a couple times a week.  Other examples of collaborative settings could involve a game room or juice lounge.   Instead of just one kitchen, there may even be multiple areas with sinks, refrigerators, and snacks.  This gives a modern spin to the popular water cooler meeting spot that all offices seem to share.

All in all, there are many designs and combinations that can be created for all the different types of tenants we house.  For PMI, we strive to meet all of our tenant’s requests and see to it that creativity continues to flourish among our properties and tenants.  Scroll down to see more examples of the creative space we have produced for our outstanding tenants!

Kitchen at Mitch Kapor's offices at 543 Howard in San Francisco.

Mahalo's Kitchen at PMI's 3523 Eastham in Culver City.

Eventbrite's former space at PMI's 410 Townsend in San Francisco.

Afar Media at PMI's 394 Pacific in San Francisco.

Santa Monica Opens Nation’s Largest Bike Parking Center

Bicycle parking across our 1460 4th Street building in Santa Monica. Photo: LA Metro

PMI recently started a program in San Francisco where we arranged bike parking for our tenant’s employees near the BART and Caltrain.  People can park their bikes overnight in participating garages and retrieve them in the morning after arriving in the city on their transit of choice.  Then they can continue the rest of the distance to work on their bike.  This eliminates the hassle of transporting a bicycle everyday.

The trend seems to be continuing in Los Angeles with the creation of an over 5,000 square foot bicycle garage in Santa Monica.  People that choose this alternative way to commute now have a state of the art facility that includes showers, lockers, restrooms, and an area to repair bicyles.  Our 1460 4th Street building in downtown Santa Monica is conveniently located right around the corner from the facility and we are excited to have this amazing addition close by for our tenants to utilize.

Transportation Nation outlines all the details in their article here.