Real Estate, Wellness, and The Cascading Office Building...
Updated: Oct 21, 2019
"Sitting is the new smoking."
"We want to build more cascading office buildings."
"When leasing Park Tower, we emphasized the outdoor patios."
From the Bisnow leasing conference to the tour of Facebook's new high-rise digs in downtown San Francisco, the real estate industry has been talking wellness. In a general sense, there's a movement afoot (no puns intended) to get people up and walking. The "cascading" office building notion refers to employees who travel throughout buildings and outside to collaborate, to pick up lunch, to clear their heads ... as in the LinkedIn lobby at 222 Second in San Francisco, filled with long amphitheater benches and chock-full of public art by Frank Stella.
Wellness campaigns become particularly important to urban core developments, for the obvious concrete and confined reasons. Indeed, features such as Salesforce's 5.4 acre public park with its meandering paths, fountains — activated by the buses below park level — and artsy benches create a green haven below the second tallest tower west of the Mississippi. While costly and often required as a condition of development, such open spaces reap ongoing rewards for tenants, surrounding buildings (both marketing and use) and frequently, the public.
Other real estate sectors, such as medical offices, are also amplifying their businesses by using adjacent real estate in a manner that promotes wellness. NAIOP's spring 2019 Development magazine focuses on such changes, such as my piece, "The New Health Shop on the Block." Leave it to Silicon Valley to innovate in a deceptively un-Silicon Valley-like place: the horse corral. There, Stanford Hospital holds its "equine-imity" class, a lesson in calmness. Once horses discern that a potential threat is no longer, they return quickly to grazing and a slow 40 beat-per-minute heart rate. Because humans tend to mirror companion heart rates, horses have proven ideal teachers for stress management. While not a commercial structure, the land use augments the healthcare services provided by nearby facilities.
Intuitively, wellness campaigns seem beneficial to tenants yet it's less clear whether — and if so, to what extent — they improve a building's value. Features such as an adjacent park or even a landlord's commitment to wellness, are frustratingly tough to quantify relative to lease rates. While outdoor patios are considered usable square footage for some tenants, they become part of a building's load factor for others (depending on tenant access). Wellness campaigns may boil down to a competitive consideration: that is, can a building without wellness attributes compete with other buildings that do? That depends on the company, the lease decision makers, and so on, but once a marketplace has widely adopted these amenities, leasing space without them can place a property at a disadvantage... whether it lack a corral, on an outdoor patio high about the street, or an adjacent public park.
- Fountain outside Salesforce office building, activated by buses below
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