More Offices Lease ‘Trophy Spaces’

Four coworkers playing foosball at an office

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More businesses are hoping upscale workspaces will lure workers back to the office, hunting for new spaces or looking to upgrade existing ones with amenities and perks such as custom-built lounges, game rooms with ping-pong tables and foosball, outdoor space that includes dining areas with fire pits, upgraded ventilation and sanitation systems, and apps that allow workers to contact building security or order food instantly.

“It’s all about how do we as landlords create an environment that gives their tenants and their employees no excuses not to show up,” Jeff Eckert, the head of JLL’s U.S. office landlord representation business, told The Wall Street Journal.

Amenity-rich headquarters and office spaces are driving a rebound in the sector. Leasings had plummeted early during the pandemic as remote work took root. The office vacancy rate is still at 16.8%, the highest since 2010, according to CBRE.

Now, as companies set up for a return, they are realizing they may need to entice employees to come back to the office.

“The top of the top has just gone crazy,” adds Mary Ann Tighe, chief executive for the New York region of the CBRE Group Inc., a real estate firm.

At 730 Third Ave. in New York, the owners, Nuveen Real Estate, are upgrading the space to woo workers back. The building includes outdoor terraces, a food hall, and a fitness center—and two beehives on a seventh-floor terrace for bees to produce honey for workers to take home for free. A lounge area also offers two full-swing simulators to hit a real golf ball to play virtual golf. They’re also hosting karaoke nights and wine tastings and offering electric scooters.

“It’s about making tenants comfortable,” Brian Wallick, director of New York investments, office and life science for Nuveen, told the Commercial Observer. “Certainly with what’s gone on in the last one to two years, you need to have amenities in your building that excite people who are coming back to the office.”

The law firm Venable LLP recently signed a New York City lease for five floors to upgrade its space to win back its employees. Its new space in New York will include a private balcony with a view of the Empire State Building and a cafeteria with a menu overseen by star chef Charlie Palmer.