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The Office Space That Wears it Well

Los Angeles Office

Creative office space may not be well defined, but it's a good bet that Bisnow's Creative Office Summit marked the first time it's been likened to a pair of distressed jeans. (Read on to find out why.) Our all-star panel included the developers and brokers who are readying the new generation of creative office space, as well as the pioneers.

285 attended our event last week, held at the JW Marriott at LA Live.

Invoking the name of executive suites pioneer Paul Fegen, Cross Campus co-founder and CEO Ronen Olshansky says the concept of subdivided space and providing shared resources isn't new. The company's differentiation is providing an experience and allowing businesses and individuals to engage one another. Cross Campus' flagship in Santa Monica houses 140 companies, and the collaborative work space operator is in the process of launching additional locations in Pasadena and Downtown LA.

Our moderator, Allen Matkins partner Pete Roth, notes that creative office is a brand name with no real definition. That said, to Pete, it's tech ready, collaborative, adaptive spaces that create efficiencies and enable different users to maximize the creative aspects of their employees in a collaborative manner.

Kilroy Realty director of development Jamas Gwilliam discussed the NeueHouse lease at Columbia Square and the challenges of making the deal work within the stringent guidelines of a historic building where Lucille Ball, Red Skelton, and Jack Benny once worked (as demonstrated by a compilation of photos and audio and video clips). NeueHouse, a private member collaborative that provides not only a work space but also a place where people can meet and interact, will take Columbia Square to its next level of creativity, he says.

PMI Properties CTO and partner Jeffrey Elliot Palmer says that, in contrast to San Fran's creative office market which is 90% web-based companies, LA has a array of industries—designers, advertising companies, new media, entertainment, post-production, tech—each having different requirements in terms of their space needs. He notes that in the early '90s, Culver City had no amenities, but one thing it did have was beautiful high-bow industrial buildings. That was enough for a firm to move there even though and start a cluster.

Former Hudson Pacific president Howard Stern recalls that Bisnow's Creative Office Summit a year ago was the market's first exposure to Hudson's Element LA, which was quickly leased to Riot Games. With creative office space, the amenities package and vibe can't be overemphasized, he says. (Case in point: the open space at Element LA that Hudson dubbed "Central Park.") Vibe sounds very right side of the brain and squishy, but it's so important, Howard says. If you don't have that vibe, you're just not going to get the tenant.

Tangram Studio creative director Charlotte Wiederhol sees a backlash against the benching trend—when companies started going to the bench, everyone got one pencil and that's all. "People are realizing this doesn't give them what they need." The companies the firm works with don't want something out of a catalog, Charlotte says. They want designers to embed in their company, understand their culture and brand, and create furniture to match.

Howard Building Corp CEO Paul McGunnigle says creative offices originally started out as shabby chic—exposed ductwork, sprinkler lines, and conduits were left alone for economic reasons. Making today's creative offices look shabby costs money because those elements get finished up a bit (like distressed jeans, Pete notes). Lack of predictability also makes creative offices more expensive than traditional construction. Reason: Millions of square feet of conventional offices have been built, so the industry knows how to predict the costs (think straight walls, sidelights, and acoustical ceilings).

CBRE SVP John Zanetos, who's working with EVOQ Properties at Alameda Square, notes Downtown LA boasts the largest fashion hub in the US, and fashion isn't just cutting and sewing fabrics anymore. Everyone is designing on CAD and sending it overseas to be fabricated, so a fashion firm looks almost identical to an architectural firm. CBRE's been in its free address, paperless HQ for nearly a year. John says the brokerage saw the demand side going towards this model, driven by the innovative companies that fall into the creative category.