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Office Amenities Today Are All About The Talent War

Maybe it takes more than 150 years of combined commercial real estate experience to realize the desire for rooftop decks in office buildings is not going away any time soon. Neither are hotel-like lobbies with free WiFi, restaurants and bars, nor state-of-the-art gyms.

Humphries & Co. Managing Partner Scott Moore leads an office panel at Bisnow's Atlanta Office of the Future event with Hines Senior Managing Director John Heagy and Daniel Corp. Executive Vice President Fred Roddy

“There was a time we would build buildings and hang amenities in buildings kind of haphazardly,” Hines Senior Director John Heagy said. Not anymore.

Developers are investing big dollars into amenities and spaces that were once only dreamed of in Atlanta's skyline. These spaces, like floor-spanning gyms or gathering areas with couches and community workstations that anyone in the building can use, also don't necessarily contribute directly to the rent rolls.

But without them, landlords have a hard time landing tenants, according to veteran commercial real estate professionals at Bisnow's Atlanta Office of the Future event Tuesday, many of whom have been in the business in excess of 20 years and have seen the evolution of what companies want in an office.

Heagy said landlords are simply responding to the pressure that tenants feel when it comes to recruiting and retaining a talented workforce, especially when those employees have every chance to jump ship to another company for better perks and work environments.

“If you think we're not in a major hunt for talent, you're kidding yourself,” Heagy said.

Highwoods Properties Vice President Jim Bacchetta discusses how employees influence employer office choices with New City President Jim Irwin and Cooper Carry Associate Principal Scott Fleming

There is data to support these new office trends:

New City President Jim Irwin said office developers in the past forced designs on the tenants, expecting them to fit into an office shell. What the employees may have found appealing was perhaps an afterthought.

“What we're finding is that employees … are saying, 'No. I have a choice and I am choosing something other than that contrived experience,'” Irwin said.

For some developers, the rooftop amenities need to appeal both to tenants and the larger public.

SJ Collins Enterprises is underway with The Interlock, a mixed-use project off Howell Mill Road in the Westside. One of the project's buildings is slated to include more than 200K SF of loft office and 90K SF of retail space as well as a rooftop amenity that took some consideration, Senior Vice President Justin Latone said.

The plan now is to split the 38K SF space into a bar and restaurant for the public and a private, members-only club that will include a swimming pool with Midtown views, Latone said.

Fitness centers are growing pieces, literally, of an office amenity package. Once Riverwood 200 was built and filled with tenants, there was one space left on the ground floor that remained empty.

Its developer, Highwoods Properties, was approached by tenants about using the 5K SF space as a fitness center much bigger than the one Highwoods initially established in the tower. In turn, the tenants agreed to share in the space's rent to create the even-larger center, Highwoods Properties Vice President Jim Bacchetta said.

“It tells you that employers will go the extra mile and pay extra to keep the talent,” Bacchetta said.

Bridge Commercial Real Estate CEO Jeff Shaw discussing office trends on a panel at Bisnow's Atlanta Future of Office in 2019.

Bridge Commercial Real Estate CEO Jeff Shaw said developers and landlords are learning the lessons taught from the success and desire of companies that are actually willing to pay a premium to have both the flexibility and the cool factor of being housed in a coworking operation like WeWork or Industrious.

That prompted Shaw's firm to hire an in-house interior designer whose background was designing hotels and their amenity-rich lobbies in their efforts to modernize older suburban office properties.

Office amenities and the building designs have all one things in common: helping companies attract workers to their buildings, Marx Realty CEO Craig Deitelzweig said.

“I think the real amenity is feeling good in your space, feeling like you're at home,” he said.