Embarcadero Center kicks off office renovations

Embarcadero Center is getting a facelift.

In the coming weeks, the center’s owner Boston Properties will start renovations to build new lobbies on the second floors of 1,2, and 3 Embarcadero, while the lobby in 4 Embarcadero Center will be redesigned.

The new lobbies — about 2,000 square feet each — will make it easier for tenants and visitors to find where they’re going and encourage meetups, said Doug Zucker, principal in charge of the project for architecture firm Gensler.

They will also provide a layer of security to office buildings that, in their current form, can be accessed by anyone from the elevator bank.

“We’re looking at how to create an entry experience for these office buildings that are buried on the second floor of a retail center,” Doug Zucker said.

Although the Embarcadero towers have cut across the Financial District skyline since their construction began in the 1970’s, accessing offices from the retail portion of the center can be confusing. To change that, the escalator and stairs between the second and third floor will be removed, leading people directly up to the new lobby spaces from the ground floor.

 

 

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What WeWork’s retail debut says about the state of retail

The company that’s shaking up office markets just took a major step into retail.

WeWork recently launched a new business concept, dubbed WeMRKT, at the co-working giant’s 205 Hudson location in New York City. WeMRKT is a small shop that sells products created by WeWork members, and while there’s currently only one location, WeWork said it plans to expand the concept nationally.

WeWork’s decision to step into retail comes at a turning point in the market. From Toys R Us to Nine West, retailers across the country are filing for bankruptcy at record levels as consumer shopping habits continue to shift.

But not all retailers are struggling. Discount shops are booming while retailers who effectively employ creative, omnichannel strategies are finding success.

WeWork’s new concept is another step in retail’s evolution. From the fusing of the office and retail sectors to new opportunities for brick-and-mortar, here’s what WeWork’s foray into retail says about the current state of the market.

 

 

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Seeing Pros and Cons in “Digitization” of Real Estate

A future-focused Urban Leaders Summit discussion in Frankfurt in May on embracing new technology raised just as many questions as it answered.

Many German business leaders have been fretting about what they call Industry 4.0—the sweeping changes created by machine learning, automation, the “internet of things,” and big data—innovations they categorize under the umbrella of “digitization.” The waves of change triggered by this digital shift are going to be felt for generations to come, as more and more jobs are capable of being done by machines. Will we need humans at all? Will we create a superintelligence that finds us an unnecessary burden?

But going back to the present, Sascha Friesike, professor of digital innovation at VU Universität Amsterdam, wondered why urbanization continues to grow even as we increasingly decentralize work. If jobs can be done from anywhere, why do we still largely choose to move to cities?

Klaus Dederichs of Drees & Sommer was wary about the rush to incorporate the internet of things into properties. Tests have shown that the current generation of smart devices, which usually operate over wi-fi, is easy to hack. “They are compromising buildings’ cybersecurity,” he said. “What if terrorists attack smart buildings rather than drive into crowds?”

But Dederichs did also note some potential for buildings to get smarter, optimizing energy use being one of them. Building information modeling (BIM) is another promising field in the world of smart buildings. This digitizing of the planning, construction, and maintenance of buildings increases efficiency and extends the life of a project. Thus far, BIM has not seen huge adoption rates in Germany; the industry is hesitant largely because of the financial investments and the additional training needed for workers.

Blockchain came up in practically every discussion, as did artificial intelligence. It is difficult to find the middle ground between viral anxiety and tech evangelism, said Thomas Metzinger of the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. “What do we do when a smart city crashes? And it will crash. We need graceful degradation,” referring a web design term that refers to designing a project to continue to function even if some features fail.

“We aren’t going to build houses that aren’t future-proof anymore,” said Martin Rodeck of EDGE Technologies, owned by OVG Real Estate. You cannot risk a new building being outdated within five years. And you should not jump on a trend like blockchain or virtual reality just because everyone else is doing it—you need to focus on how to solve the problem at hand.

Read more on Urban Land Institute

 

Mall tenants had an out when giants like Macy’s left. Now landlords bar the door

The only thing more dangerous for America’s malls than a string of apparel-chain bankruptcies is when the trouble hits department stores.

Retailers like J.C. Penney Co. and Macy’s Inc. are considered “anchors” that keep malls humming and foot traffic flowing. They’re so important to the ecosystem that smaller tenants may refuse to set up shop without a promise that the anchors will stick around: Many leases include so-called co-tenancy clauses that let them cut and run or pay less if those key tenants depart.

Now, many landlords are pushing to eliminate or narrow the escape clauses in the wake of mass department-store closings. That means less flexibility for the remaining tenants.

 

Read more on Bloomberg

 

 

Free time and fun: the new must-haves at apartments

As the luxury multifamily market approaches a peak, apartment owners and managers turning to social amenities to engage residents at their properties.

The new must-have amenity for luxury apartment projects? Time.

During this economic growth cycle apartment developers have engaged in a virtual arms race of amenities. Most were physical goodies they could tout in property tours – features like furnished guest suites for resident’s out-of-town visitors, rooftop pools, and walk-in lobby refrigerators for food deliveries.

Now, say apartment developers and property managers, the trend is towards providing services that save residents time, or experiences that make effective use of it.

Across the country high-end apartments are now offering a host of new services to attract renters: dog-walking, wine tastings, poker nights, errand-runners.

“There’s this feeling that the amenities war has run its course – everyone has the same check list on their website,” said Tom Geyer, vice president of branding at the Bozzuto Group, the Greenbelt, MD.-based developer and apartment manager.

“But I do think the battle of services is a newfound strategy to build value.”

Bozzuto, which owns or manages more than 60,000 units up and down the East Coast, has become a specialist in adding these experience-based and time-saving services, and notes the appeal of service and experience-based amenities goes across all age groups.

For its part, Geyer said Bozzuto doesn’t try to mold their properties to fit a certain age group – for millennials, say.

Rather, the company sees its properties and tenants in terms of “tribes.” Some properties have a preponderance of bike riders, some have dog owners, and others are dominated by retirees looking for urban living experiences.

“Most of our residents are not non-social people,” said Geyer. “Building amenity space is about supporting interaction, looking for a chance meeting of the tribe.”

For example, Geyer said residents aren’t just interested in an onsite gym, they want access to classes.

“Classes are the number one thing, group classes,” he said.

That means not just adding amenities, but re-designing some of the existing amenity spaces. Gyms have to be designed to accommodate the new trends of cross-fit, PX-90 workouts. And equipment has to be placed to accommodate classes.

National Development, a multifamily developer and manager based in Boston, agrees with the new thinking. It hired a full-time marketing and community engagement manager who coordinates events for a dozen National Development properties.

“It’s not an either-or proposition,” said Ted Tye, a managing partner at National Development. “There’s been a real push for physical amenities, and that hasn’t abated. Layered on top of that, as the market gets more competitive, is the social amenity.”

 

 

Read more on CoStar

 

 

 

The future of the shopping mall is not about shopping

When Cirque du Soleil announced plans this week for a “family entertainment” concept inside a Toronto mall, it said a lot about the future of shopping centers.

The 24,000 sq.ft. space, called “Creactive”, will be a circus-inspired playground with a range of activities from juggling to high-wire – allowing fans to “peek behind the curtain and imagine themselves stepping into our artists’ shoes”, according to Marie Josée Lamy, producer of Creactive. “Hanging at the mall” will take on an entirely new connotation as shoppers take to the flying trapeze. And that’s the point.

No longer is it good enough for malls to be passive places to buy stuff – they have to be engaging places to do stuff. Otherwise, this particular retail format will be relegated to relic status – “a historical anachronism, a 60-year or so aberration that no longer meets the public’s, the consumer’s or the retailer’s needs”, as developer Rick Caruso mused.

With that point in mind, I draw your attention to Exhibit A: Randall Park Mall in Ohio. When it opened in 1976, Randall Park Mall was briefly the world’s biggest shopping center. It quickly lost relevance however, and by 2000, Randall Park Mall’s vacancy rate was 92%. Fast forward to 2017 when it was revealed that Amazon was constructing a 855,000 shipping center on the same site. Online triumphs over offline, or “software eats retail” as Netscape founder and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen memorably put it. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

 

 

Read more on Forbes

 

 

After two projects sank, can San Francisco find developers for decaying waterfront?

The new effort is one of the largest but also potentially costliest redevelopment opportunities in the city.

The Port of San Francisco is seeking ideas for new uses at 13 historic waterfront piers, in one of the largest but also potentially one of the costliest redevelopment opportunities in the city.

The agency wants proposals from both large developers and smaller tenants such as nonprofits, arts groups and retailers to revive the piers, which are now vacant or used for parking or storage.

Some previously renovated piers have been financial successes. Waterfront offices at the Ferry Building and Piers 1 1/2, 3 and 5 have signed tenants for rents over $100 per square foot. Control of the Piers later sold for $103 million in 2016, and the Ferry Building is expected to be sold to Hudson Pacific Properties for around $300 million, according to sources tracking the market.

But two recent redevelopment efforts failed because of the high costs of rehabilitating and seismically protecting piers. A study for the Port found that $74 million to $10 million would be required to bring a single pier up to code. Last year TMG Partners and Premier Structures, Inc. exited an office, event and restaurant space proposal at Pier 38 after the cost to repair the pier was expected to be as high as $122 million.

 

 

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times

 

 

 

Workplace needs a place to chill, Millennials say

What is one thing millennials want in an office that their parents probably never thought of? A place to relax.

That is the conclusion of a survey conducted by U.K. office interior specialist Dale Office Interiors, which found that over a third of 18- to 34-year-olds would favor prospective employers offering “chill-out zones.”

There is no exact definition of a chill-out zone, but presumably most people know it when they experience it. Previous generations understood the concept, but few thought of the workplace as a place for chilling out. Home, certainly. A bar, maybe, for those in a certain mood. But not the office.

“People want to enjoy working, playing, essentially they want to enjoy life!” Allford Hall Monaghan Morris founding partner Simon Allford told The Architects’ Journal. “Buildings need to enable this by offering a range of different working and relaxing spaces on the micro scale of the office and on the macro scale of the building.”

Overall, what millennials want is of high interest to employers. In the U.S., Google searches for “how do millennials want to work and live?” increased from zero in 2015 to 15,900 in 2016 and 13,400 in 2017, according to Fresh Business Thinking.

 

Read more from Bisnow

 

 

Is proximity to mass transit becoming less of a draw for apartment renters?

In the few years since companies like Uber and Lyft began to offer their ride sharing and carpooling options to riders in San Francisco, the premium earned by apartments near mass transit has dropped.

Apartment dwellers have traditionally been willing to pay a premium to live near mass transit stops in urban markets. But fueled by the proliferation of ride-sharing services, a rise in use of electric vehicles and other factors, that allure has begun to lessen in the Golden Gate City and that effect could spread elsewhere, according to new findings from MetLife Investment Management.

“When we look at what makes real estate assets most attractive to tenants, access to transit has traditionally been near the top of the list,” says Adam Ruggiero, head of real estate research for MetLife, which recently released its new report, “On the Road Again: How Advances in Transportation Are Shaping the Future of Real Estate.”

Apartment renters have more options to get around, which may be diluting the amount of extra rent that they are willing to pay to live near a subway stop or light rail station. In the few years since companies like Uber and Lyft began to offer their ride sharing and carpooling options to riders in San Francisco, the premium earned by apartments near mass transit has dropped—but not disappeared.

“It might lower the spread but it does not erase the spread,” says Justin Bakst, director of capital markets for CoStar Risk Analytics, which provided data for the MetLife report.

The introduction of ride sharing and carpooling services in San Francisco coincided with a decline in rental premiums for on-transit apartments (defined properties within a five-minute walk of a transit stop) from a historical average of 20 percent to only 15 percent today, according to the MetLife report

 

Read more from National Real Estate Investor

 

 

San Jose mixed-use apartments eyed west of Google village

Plans for a mixed-use apartment and retail complex have sprouted west of downtown San Jose, a development that would bring more than 100 residences to an area known as the Midtown district.

The proposed development at 259 Meridian Ave. near West San Carlos Street would consist of 110 to 120 residential units and 2,300 square feet of retail, according to documents on file with San Jose city planners.

“The city has been encouraging development within an urban village planning process for this area,” said Jerry Strangis, a principal executive with Strangis Properties, a realty firm that is the project consultant for the development. Strangis wouldn’t identify the principal developer of the property.

 

Read more from The Mercury News