On October 30, 2018, over 100 real estate professionals gathered at ULI’s headquarters to observe an engaging panel discussion: Learning to Share: The Future of Co-Working and Co-Living. The expert panel discussed key elements of co-working and co-living space and about the future of the shared-space model. Moderated by Adam Glaser (Planning and Strategies Leader, Perkins+Will), the distinguished panel included Robert Summers (President/CEO, Pantera Management Group), Revathi Greenwood (Head of Americas Research, Cushman & Wakefield), Martin Ditto (CEO, Ditto Residential), and Jeff Chod (Managing Regional Director, Tishman Speyer). The panel brought a wide array of experience and backgrounds in the real estate industry and were able to give multiple perspectives on the value of shared space use.
Adam kicked off the discussion by asking the panelists where they saw the co-working and co-living space heading. Revathi pointed out that while 1% of the current D.C. market is made up of co-working space, that number could rise to 5-10%. With the rise in number of jobs, especially from small business or from contracting, there will be a need for smaller, more flexible office space which co-working space can provide. Jeff alluded to the fact that many jobs in D.C. are related to the government and therefore are dependent on federal funding, making the flexibility of a short-term lease more appealing. Jeff discussed four appealing characteristics that co-working space could provide to potential tenants: 1) Having pre-built out space, 2) flexible lease terms, 3) amenities and services, and 4) collaboration and sense of community. Robert, who currently works in a shared office space, described his experience in the shared-space environment. Robert pointed to the fact that shared space like WeWork, provided a professional setting to conduct business, while keeping overhead costs low and the flexibility to work from different WeWork sites when traveling to different cities. Martin then gave great perspective on the co-living space, what it really means today, and the opportunity for co-living to improve tenants’ health and wellbeing. Martin also touched on the idea that while office space is often looked at as either just traditional space or shared space, it is likely that in the future there will be a number of categories and scales that office space could fall into catering to different tenant needs.
Continuing the discussion, Adam asked the panelists about geographic restrictions on co-working. Our panelists pointed out that while convenience and location to home is a factor in office space, it is not considered the driving factor. Martin pointed out that co-working space is already happening out in the suburbs, just maybe not in the traditional sense that one might think. He referenced an example of a restaurant in the suburbs renting out its space to tenants during the day, while the restaurant was not in operation. The general consensus was that co-working space is still something that people want regardless of where they live. The next question dealt with how a downturn could affect co-working spaces. The panelists seemed to believe that a downturn will likely cause a shakeup and a consolidation of co-working spaces. Co-working could benefit from a recession because of the flexibility it provides tenants, however, some tenants may choose not to renew their leases in favor of the rent-free coffee shops and restaurants options.
One topic with co-working space that continued to be brought up was the community aspect. Martin felt that co-living space created a sense of community by holding events geared to health and wellbeing. Jeff mentioned that the number one reason people go to co-working space was the sense of community. The open floor plan results in more informal face-to-face interactions that results in a sharp decrease in formal meetings. Rob added that the more interactions and open space plans tend to increase productivity as people are held more accountable.
Finally, the conversation shifted to the future of co-working design. Revathi suggested that the next step is collecting data on how people are actually using co-working spaces and having the design respond to that data. Technological innovation is going change the way people work and live and the design of these spaces will largely be reactionary to those technologies. The discussion concluded with intriguing questions from the audience including whether a stipend or subsidy has been discussed to provide affordable office space. The panelists did a great job on touching on the characteristics of shared space, the challenges and opportunities that it provides, and where they see the trend heading.
By Joshua Skolnick and Taylor Stout