It’s 6:30 am at Franklin Corner Deli, and in walks Jerry Fennelly, one of my best ‘sources’ when I was reporting on real estate, picking up morning coffee for his 13 hour day. What’s new, Jerry? He obligingly launches into his trend analysis (I haven’t seen it, but you can order it). My take on what he said:
- landlords should worry, businesses are taking smaller offices than their job roster warrants because many workers will be traveling or working from home. Fennelly cited a company that is taking half the space that the workforce size would warrant.
- retail real estate dealers should worry because the whole world of real estate is morphing into an Amazon-endangered zone.
Fennelly and I enjoy a back and forth about the prospects of shoe stores and food stores. Shoe stores, he admits, might survive because bunion-sufferers like to try on shoes. The food business might be transformed by the Peapods and the Blue Aprons, but folks will still patronize the entertainment side of food – restaurants.
Today a New York Times article underlines Fennelly’s proposition. What we in Princeton know as “shared office space” began l-o-n-g ago with businesses like Princeton Office Solutions in inexpensive (now ancient) developments like Hilton Realty’s Research Park. The cheapest rental space is the mailbox they keep for you, and you can rent conference rooms if you need to meet a client.
In the ’80s and ’90s independent landlords operated these spaces all over Greater Princeton. Last time I looked (disclaimer, I retired 5 years ago and no longer track this), virtually all the Class A spaces had been bought out by Regus.
The next new business model might be for large co-working space operators to rent large amounts of space for, according to a NYT source, “commercial landlords who want to maintain a hands-off approach with renters and not have to provide copy machines, mail forwarding and receptionists to individual tenants.” In other words, the co-working spaces will house – not just start-ups and entrepreneurs but significantly sized companies.
Yet – yet – the Wall Street Journal says the opposite.
Employers are ending or reducing remote-work arrangements as managers demand more collaboration, closer contact with customers—and more control over the workday. But bringing workers back to the office isn’t easy.
Fennelly went on his way and I went back to Delaware Valley Physical Therapy to introduce a friend to the ministrations of the fabulous Jim Schorsch. Seems to me these two trends will prevail — the value of chance encounters like this one, and the viability of hands-on occupations like the various therapies. You can’t massage a sore knee with TV medicine.