Brandywine Debuts Flexible Office Space As Tenant Amenity, Not Coworking Competitor
Brandywine Realty Trust is not getting into the coworking game, despite what its new flexible office space concept might look like at first glance.
The new offering is called BEX, which stands for Brandywine Experience. It is a new amenity Brandywine is offering to all of its office tenants, no matter where they rent, that the REIT piloted for nearly a year at 555 East Lancaster Ave. in Radnor, Pennsylvania.
The first location is due to open soon in Tysons near Washington, D.C. and with a space in Center City's Commerce Square soon after, BEX is meant to provide on-demand desk, meeting or conference space away from a tenant's main footprint.
“It’s a reaction to the experience of a lot of people working for our tenants in the suburbs who live in the city and wanted a place to have an office [in the city], whether due to weather or what-have-you," Brandywine Executive Vice President and Senior Managing Director Jeff DeVuono told Bisnow. "And they wanted it without having to deal with coworking, with additional monthly fees.”
Brandywine is offering BEX to all of its tenants, no matter the size of their lease, included in their rent. DeVuono stressed that BEX was conceived as a service to compete with other traditional office landlords, rather than coworking operators like WeWork. Though in these early stages, he admitted that the product could change shape radically in the next few years.
“I don’t think we have any specific vision for how this is going to evolve,” DeVuono said. “BEX is just the beginning of a platform, and as the company comes up with new ideas and learns more about what our customers want, that’s the platform under which we would expand it.”
In Radnor, Tysons and Commerce Square, BEX is located on the ground floor in about 4,000 to 7,000 SF. The Commerce Square location is under construction in a former restaurant space, and the fit-out process takes from 90 to 120 days to complete, DeVuono said.
Being on the first floor is important to give employees who may not be familiar with a building an easy path to simply walking in and getting to work. In Commerce Square, BEX users will be able to bypass the 24-hour security desk with key card access. Brandywine will also be able to closely manage and oversee BEX in Radnor and Commerce Square, as it has management office space in both developments.
Quick responsiveness is central to BEX, both for tenants and Brandywine. If a business recruits an employee who needs to start right away but can't make it out to its main location, that employee can set up at a BEX location that day. So far in Radnor, however, the desk space has not been utilized nearly as much as conference rooms or meeting space, which prompted a quick response and redesign to dedicate more of the footprint to those uses.
The initial design of the Radnor pilot also resembled traditional office space more closely, which DeVuono said was met with a lukewarm response. BEX was then revamped to have more of an "impactful physical experience."
"Office landlords are moving towards a high-end hotel and retail experience," DeVuono said. "So if you walk into one of these spaces, you’re going to feel like you would if you were going into a high-end hotel or private club.”
If the Tysons and Commerce Square locations prove popular, Brandywine will likely expand BEX to Austin next.
“We’re pretty excited about the feedback we’ve gotten so far,” DeVuono said. “It has been very well received by the brokerage community as a way to differentiate one landlord from another.”