Amenities: A reinvestment trend

This article is originally from New York Real Estate Journal, written by Vocon’s Principal, Tom Vecchione.

Creating a place of choice has never been more important for New York office buildings. Most commercial offices are facing a spectrum of challenging forces due to the pandemic–from changing occupancy patterns to resistance against long commutes. Organizations are strategically assessing both the cultural and performance values of their portfolios. Placemaking for office buildings is now centered on strengthening the connection between employees and the places in the community they share on a deeper level.

Prior to the pandemic, most of the workforce revolved around a “9-to-5, five-day-a-week” schedule in the office. The success of the past year and a half’s remote work test has resulted in the emergence of a variety of hybrid work models and different approaches in returning to the office. In a Vocon survey of over 6,500 employees, 90% of them prefer to work in a hybrid manner. Organizations are now also tackling the “Great Resignation,” as the percentage of U.S. employees leaving their jobs for new opportunities is at its highest level in more than two decades. Most organizations are finding that the future workplace will serve as a destination for connection, culture and creative thinking to encourage employee retention.

To accommodate these shifts in tenant work patterns, office building owners are adapting by captivating office users with refreshed amenity spaces and business-ready workplaces that improve the work environment and effectively support employees to help organizations retain top talent.

Including amenities in commercial real estate buildings is hardly a new concept. Large technology firms have forged the way into designing dynamic places of choice for their employees within their own offices, providing full-service kitchens, open lounge spaces and recreation areas. But there seems to be a renewed sense of urgency amongst commercial landlords to raise the bar as office vacancy levels remain high and end-consumers have more options.

At Vocon, our repositioning practice has grown significantly over the last 12 months as we partner with landlords to customize solutions that are tailored to each building’s unique ecosystem. Building amenities are not one-size-fits all. We study the building’s business profiles, benchmark peer buildings, and uncover unique architectural capabilities for each asset to provide a useful and dynamic program that will engage prospective and existing tenancies.

Beyond their evident business case, we believe amenities provide value by sparking moments of joy and incorporating the unexpected to distinguish buildings from being a commodity product. Launching an emotive narrative inspires people to understand the importance of places. By creating a brand and identity as a starting point, office buildings are now being seen through the lens of service and hospitality.

Vocon’s business-ready workplace practice also continues to gain momentum. The typical 10-year real estate commitment for many firms does not keep pace with the flexibility they need. Landlords are increasingly pre-building spaces that respond to the new demands of mid-size corporate tenants. However, our clients are not just pre-building office space to typical standards. The aesthetic of pre-built space is becoming more customized to target tenant types and acting as an extension of a building’s brand narrative throughout the stack.

Recognition that the typical office building must transform to address the hyper-competitive market today continues to grow. Employees are now looking for places to not just go to work, but to thrive. They are expecting an ecosystem that provides a mix of conveniences beyond location–from great food and beverage options to fitness and wellness choices–that inspire a refreshed “invitation back to work.” The lines between “live, work and play” have been blurred, and technological forces have removed physical barriers to connecting with others. Our mission is to continue to curate a mix of amenities that catalyzes a project’s success and contributes to celebrating the vibrancy of the urban fabric.