DC Buildings Sprout More Outdoor Amenities Amid COVID

More than half its portfolio has ‘significant outdoor space,’ brokerage JLL says


Developers and property owners in Washington, D.C., are joining those in other commercial markets in searching for ways to entice people back to the office in the ongoing age of COVID

One idea in particular that’s taken root? Rooftop spaces and elevated roof decks that offer outdoor workspaces with plenty of access to fresh air and other amenities.

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“Fifty-five percent of our portfolio has rooftops or significant outdoor space, such as terraces,” Evan Behr, a JLL (JLL) executive managing director of agency leasing in Washington, D.C., told Commercial Observer. “Ideally, the outdoor space is a relaxed extension of the building that inspires people to hang out, work, or entertain there after hours.”

One building that has done this exceptionally well, he noted, is 1333 New Hampshire NW, a 12-story, 350,000-square-foot office property that Meridian Group owns. 

“In addition to checking all of the boxes mentioned, the rooftop experience is really special, due to the elevation of the building — 80 feet above sea level — and size of the indoor space,” Behr said. “The flexibility of use as a formal conference space, lounge, or indoor and outdoor entertainment area has really resonated with prospective tenants and their employees.”

Another notable rooftop is Pembroke-owned and recently transformed 1201 New York Avenue, with amenities in the sky that feel more like a fancy hotel than a corporate office building.

Then, there’s 55 M Street SE, a 267,695-square-foot, nine-story office building that Spear Street Capital owns and was delivered earlier this year. The building offers flexible rooftop space with movable high-end furniture and sweeping city views. It also features an abundance of greenery, and a farm managed and operated by Up Top Acres that grows vegetables for tenants and local restaurants. 

Hoffman & Associates670 Maine Avenue is scheduled to open in mid-2022. The building will boast water views from its rooftop, as it will be nestled along the southwest waterfront at The Wharf. JLL handles leasing for this and the other addresses. 

“A well-equipped roof amenity could support outdoor informal meetings, an alternative that was sought after for obvious reasons during the pandemic,” Amy Bowser, a JLL executive managing director of agency leasing, told CO. “Different buildings have different features, based upon the environment and vibe that owners are intentionally curating for their tenants. We’ve seen everything from private cabanas to podcast studios, game rooms or large, state-of-the-art conference centers.”

All of this is increasingly important as many companies have been trying to get workers to return after more than 18 months of working from home. The pandemic has also shined a harsh light on the healthfulness (or lack thereof) of the office buildings where people were spending so much of their waking hours. 

“More and more as companies continue to weigh the significance of an enhanced employee culture and work environment,” Behr said. “A lot of organizations in D.C. do a fair amount of entertaining — either for staff or for clients. Having easy access to outdoor space creates a more relaxed, professional environment for collaboration and relationship building, which is great for culture.”

Keith Loria can be reached at kloria@commercialobserver.com.