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The Federal Government Is Looking To Lease Coworking Space Nationwide

Careers in federal government are known for job security and generous pensions, but also for layers of bureaucracy and cold, gray, impersonal buildings.

The bureaucracy is unlikely to change, but soon, government workers around the country could be organizing hurricane relief, investigating regulatory infractions or rubber-stamping Social Security payments while natural light flows around them and kombucha pours freely from tapped kegs. 

Coworking

The federal government is on the hunt for coworking space, and it wants to lease from small businesses. The General Services Administration has put out a request for proposals, seeking coworking space around the country.

The request is classified as a "Partial Small Business Set-Aside," which means that the government is aiming to award at least part of this contract to small businesses. Contract amounts could range from $1K to $10M per vendor. The RFP asks for pricing on coworking space over a one-year period, plus four additional one-year periods.

Francesco De Camilli, Colliers International vice president and head of flexible workspace consulting, said that the GSA has a few one-off deals for coworking already in place, but "this is the first formal RFP at a national level." (De Camilli was formerly the chief operating officer of Bisnow Media.)

The GSA occupies some 370M SF of office space nationwide, so to have even 2% or 5% of its space in consideration for coworking "represents a huge opportunity," De Camilli said. "Their approach is to pick the best-in-market operators, not to establish a single point of contact with a national platform."

Coworking spaces would be ideal for emergency response teams that need to set up offices following a hurricane, he said, but also for various other project-based initiatives. Some federal budgets are set for 12-month periods, so it makes sense for real estate contracts to follow the same short terms.  

Coworking operators do need to have a presence in four markets to be considered, according to the RFP.

"I wouldn't be surprised if you see small operators teaming up amongst themselves," De Camilli said. This would enable them to qualify, plus offer pricing power and scale. He said the RFP lets the GSA "be in a position to have pre-negotiated rates and terms with a network of cowork service providers such that when the need hits, they can quickly turn on office space."

The solicitation asks for pricing for unreserved and reservable workstations and reservable offices. The GSA does not want proposals to include costs for refreshments. Federal rules prohibit alcoholic beverages in certain instances. 

"Working beyond the confines of traditional government offices has become more common," the solicitation reads. "Government employees are now commonly equipped with technological tools to work from anywhere ... [The change could] promote a responsible use of taxpayer dollars."

The GSA is looking for space in Tier 1 markets New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, the Bay Area, the D.C. area, Boston and Cambridge, and Seattle. Some of the Tier 2 markets it is interested in are Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix, San Diego, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Cleveland, Austin, St. Louis and South Florida. 

Applicants will be chosen based on experience, past performance and management plans. The closing date is Jan. 30, so interested parties will want to submit their materials soon. The GSA didn't answer questions as of press time.