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Columbia Property Trust Reveals Renovations At 650 California St

Recent data revealed San Francisco’s office market could be cooling off, but to Columbia Property Trust SVP David Dowdney, “it’s orange hot instead of red hot.”

We took a look at Columbia Property Trust’s properties at 650 California St and 221 Main St to find out how the public REIT is working to attract tenants and become a long-term investor in the hot San Francisco market.


While San Francisco is a relatively new market for the public REIT, Columbia Property Trust VP Michael Schmidt and David (above with Columbia Property Trust senior property manager Viviane Clausen), have been operating office buildings in San Francisco since the 1990s.

David says the Atlanta-based company used to have a heavy emphasis in the Sun Belt, but four years ago the company switched gears. Instead of being in 35 different markets, the company shifted toward focusing on high-barrier-to-entry markets like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and New York, since these markets are less risky.

Since then, the REIT has acquired three buildings in San Francisco and just completed this year’s largest lease in New York City for all of 222 East 41st St to NYU Langone for 390k SF. Its portfolio includes three additional properties in New York as well as properties in Houston, Atlanta, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.


Columbia Property Trust bought the building at 650 California two years ago and is actively leasing several floors, including the open office space above and spec suites. Current tenants include Credit Suisse and Goodby Silverstein & Partners.

The building has a classic address, David says, especially since the property is next to the famous cable car line. 

“It’s trendy and has long-term value, which is key to tenant capture,” he says.

David says part of Columbia Property Trust’s success in San Francisco comes from being a progressive landlord that is hands-on in the market and working on what tenants want.

“Tenants are always fickle,” David says, “and we need to change with them.”

VP Michael Schmidt says the REIT doesn't want to be a commodity landlord, but “we want to go one step further.”


Going that extra step includes providing more lighting and more open space throughout the building, including an open lobby area with lots of seating and places for employees to get away from the office, above.


The company is bringing on Ritual Roasters to fill a café space in the lobby and may serve wine after hours. It also plans to open up the lobby even more with additional seating inside and out, Mike says.


Other amenities in the building include a 4k SF fitness center, above, and a conference center in the lower levels. Mike says there are plans to add a multi-purpose room to the fitness center to provide yoga, Pilates and other fitness classes.

650 California and 221 Main St recently garnered Wired Certification.


650 California St offers spec suites, which will be added to the raw space seen above, to appeal to more traditional tenants, such as insurance companies, hedge funds, bankers and high-end money managers.


The building has views of the water to the north from levels five and up, seen here. It also offers open space on the south side of the building, appealing to more creative tech users.


Columbia Property Trust also renovated the second-floor marketing suite, above, into a modern collaborative space with 24-foot ceilings and all-glass conference rooms.


While 650 California may attract more traditional tenants, the building at 221 Main St offers more space for creative use. The public REIT also owns the building at 333 Market St, which is fully occupied by Wells Fargo with a long-term lease.


At 221 Main St, the developer created an indoor/outdoor conference center and tenant lounge, above. Previously, the hallway was the “tunnel of doom,” but David says they opened it up and created better flow and light.


Mike says upgrades to the rooftop deck, above, will provide more soft seating and add covered areas for seating, wood planters and barbecue areas.


Columbia Property Trust plans to repaint the exterior of the building a brighter white, such as above.

“Painting will make it pop and be more identifiable to drivers coming off the Bay Bridge,” David says.

Although 221 Main St is about 94% leased up, a new multifamily development next door and the Transbay Terminal will make it even more attractive to additional tenants.

And the developer plans to add more ground-floor retail since there will be enough foot traffic once these other developments are completed, David says.

While Mike says he’s happy with the REIT's San Francisco properties, it will still look at any new opportunities. He says the company’s acquisition plans will focus on new capital in West Los Angeles and New York going forward.

Cushman & Wakefield’s Zach Siegel, JD Lumpkin, as well as Sam Wasserstein oversee leasing efforts for 650 California St.