If You Build It, They Will Come: How to Attract Social Media and Tech Tenants
Scott Spector Sept. 2, 2013, 6 a.m.
Last week, in this very column, we talked about the top architectural trends among social media and tech tenants. This week, we’ll revisit the idea, but from the landlord and building owner’s perspective. Now that we know what the top requests are, the question becomes: What can we do to attract and retain social media and tech tenants?
Many of you are trying to figure this out already, either by rebranding individual facilities or multiple buildings into a “neighborhood within a neighborhood” or creating a streetscape designed to attract these tenants. A few examples immediately come to mind—Brookfield Place at the World Financial Center, Hudson Yards and several areas within Dumbo. They’ve already taken the steps to cater to social media and tech tenants by putting the infrastructure in place. Best of all, other types of tenants can benefit, including young and established financial services firms looking to push the envelope a bit.
What these landlords and building owners have done so well is that they have brought in a team—commercial brokers, retail brokers, architects and other skilled trades—and created a perfect blend of retail-oriented common areas, choreographing the mix to perfection so that it closely matches the profile of their potential clients. Shake Shacks, Skinny Pizza, Umami Burgers, MP Taverna, fitness centers, green spaces, waterfront access and more can all be found within a short radius. While it’s a gamble, and no one can guarantee it works until the leases are signed, it appears to be master planning at its finest.
Beyond that first step of putting the right neighbors into the mix, what else can a landlord or building owner do to attract social media and tech firms? I suggest you raise the roof (keep your hands in place—I’m referring to making the most of the highly marketable space at the top of your building). Roof space is a valuable asset and can be used as a selling point to potential tenants. Think about what works best for your building—a sustainable green roof, a common area that is split to give the top-floor tenant three-quarters of it exclusively with the remainder used as a social gathering area, a pool, a garden or a recreation area. Examine every inch and consider every option—just don’t leave it out of the equation.
While putting your plan into action, remember to consider security. Some of the most sought-after spaces are in buildings located on the outskirts of neighborhoods or in emerging metropolitan areas. Investing in proper security, whether it’s spacious sidewalks or extra lighting, will help tenants feel comfortable.
Another tip: A little character goes a long way. Social media and tech tenants want a space that is hip, yet warm, so recycling is the preferred way to go, if possible. Facilities that would normally be gutted or areas that would be covered up and hidden can add architectural ambience to an otherwise vanilla office. Before proceeding, though, be sure to have the building or space evaluated by a qualified architect or forensics professional, so that you are certain it is structurally sound and up to code.
Finally, remember that you are part of a community. Social media and tech tenants tend to attract a younger, more socially aware workforce. Thinking about how your building or offices tie into the neighborhood and how you can give back can pay off big time. For example, Brookfield Properties goes beyond its role as a commercial landlord, contributing to the community through public spaces at its flagship locations with free concerts, fairs, festivals and exhibitions held year-round. Other real estate companies that are no strangers to philanthropy are Vornado Realty, Mack-Cali, and RFR, to name a few.
While there’s no guarantee that if you build it they will come, a building or office space with amenities, character and a concern for the neighborhood at large is certainly a great place to start, whether for social media and tech tenants or any kind of occupant you can imagine.