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Coworking Is Coming To Shopping Centers

The next frontier for coworking space is in shopping centers and other retail properties, according to a new report by Colliers International. 

Coworking in the old days.

Coworking is already part of mixed-use developments, but Colliers reports that developers now have the opportunity to attract coworking companies directly into retail centers, much the same way that clinics and other medical facilities are locating in otherwise retail contexts.

"It’s no longer a backfill to vacant boxes, but rather a lifestyle shift, offering flexibility and providing a nontraditional office environment," Colliers National Director of Retail Services Anjee Solanki said.

Coworking in a retail property context is partly about creating a community room for the surrounding neighorhood by hosting organizations, entrepreneurial startups, college discussions and more, Solanki said.

"Why not? I would rather meet in a well-designed, barista-staffed coworking space than a sterile, plastic chair-filled community room with no character,” Solanki said.

Coworking space benefits the retail nearby, since it has the potential to drive foot traffic to shops and restaurants, the report said. 

More that two-thirds of those surveyed by Colliers said that coworking space in a mall would encourage them to visit the mall's shops more often. For coworking space near restaurants, the figure is 73%.

Colliers International National Director, Retail Services Anjee Solanki

Though the report doesn't offer any numbers on how much coworking space is going into a retail setting, there are examples.

In Atlanta, for instance, Switzerland-based International Workplace Group, the parent company of Regus and Spaces, signed a 32K SF lease recently with OliverMcMillan to open the first U.S. location for its No18 coworking brand. The workspace will be among the luxury retail shops of OliverMcMillan's The Shops Buckhead Atlanta development.

The report mentions Spaces as a leader in locating coworking within retail or mixed-use centers.

"There is a trend of adaptive reuse of retail spaces and converting them to coworking offices, a trend that we're actively exploring," IWG Vice President Michael Berretta told Colliers.

Coworking is also becoming a store-within-a-store concept in some cases, such as at Staples, which recently announced a new strategy centered around its own coworking space.

The appeal of coworking locations in urban retail centers and malls is partly a function of retail properties' ability to deliver what people want, the report says.

Citing a recent GlobalData survey, Colliers wrote that coworking tenants primarily want a safe location, followed by solid transport links, proximity to restaurants and other dining amenities, and, for suburban commuters, enough parking. These features are often available in a retail setting.