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MacKenzie Industrial’s Owen Rouse On Pitching an ‘Amenity Narrative’ to Tenants – Industrial Observer

It’s no secret that the workplace market across the nation is troubled, and that’s actually the case within the D.C. and Baltimore markets, the place landlords are having a tricky time filling area.

In some circumstances, landlords could by no means have the ability to fill their workplace area as previously. That’s led to hypothesis concerning the destiny of that vacant area. Residential conversion is probably the most talked-about choice, and there’s been an excessive amount of that throughout the D.C. and Baltimore areas. Some 14 workplace buildings in D.C. alone are slated for multifamily conversion. If all undergo, it will take away 2.8 million sq. toes of area from the workplace stock, lowering general emptiness to a still-high 16.7 p.c.

Owen Rouse, senior vice chairman of Lutherville, Md.-based brokerage MacKenzie Industrial Actual Property Companies, spoke with Industrial Observer this month about what he’s seeing and the way the workplace market may shake out this yr.

This interview has been edited for size and readability.

Industrial Observer: Now that we’re in April, how would you characterize the state of the workplace market in Maryland and D.C.?

Owen Rouse: Exercise amongst finish customers trying to find business workplace area at the moment falls into three camps: downsizing to high quality, wherein firms are barely shrinking their workplace footprint however doing so in a high-quality constructing; downsizing within the present footprint, the place teams are giving up pointless area however remaining in a extremely fascinating handle; and departing altogether from the market, because of a company merger, companywide shrinkage of workplace footprint or the closing of an unprofitable location.

What are the elements most impacting the sector proper now?

The return-to-office vs. work-from-home saga is beginning to have readability, with an growing variety of firms demanding a bodily presence within the workplace, which removes uncertainty from the decision-making course of. Suburban-based workplace product, notably extremely amenitized ones, are having better entry in attracting and retaining tenants. The Baltimore-Washington, D.C., space stays among the many most recession-proof sections of the nation, so we count on much less financial ache and uncertainty for the steadiness of 2023.

How a lot of an affect has distant working had on the sector?

Though various business by business and firm by firm, the affect of distant work has been vital, with practically each group sustaining heads-down work features that don’t require a each day presence within the conventional workplace. In lots of situations, distant work turns into isolating and tough, with workers damage by much less contact with mentors and friends and engendering proximity bias. An increasing number of workers are selecting to work from home much less usually to beat a few of these challenges and perceived slights. The road between can work remotely vs. ought to work remotely is evident. It’s believed that some components of the workforce will stay distant with solely occasional visits to the primary workplace or satellite tv for pc location.

The return-to-the-office motion at the moment underway will decide up momentum as employers spotlight the worth of in-person collaboration and as employees perceive that if you’re not seen frequently, you might miss out on plum assignments and won’t get promoted.

What ought to homeowners of workplace properties be doing now?

Initially, determine threats to occupancy and formulate a method for the steadiness of the yr. This begins by talking instantly with every tenant to totally perceive their short-term and long-term plans, and formulate how the owner can provide options. Subsequent, create a situation plan for the potential loss in earnings, which entails lender discussions and putting operational prices below a microscope. Lastly, study possible methods to amenitize your properties, together with tenant-centric flooring, distinctive design components, placemaking within the public components of a constructing, and carving out retail areas to contribute to the general tenant expertise.

What are the very best methods to fill empty area?

In markets experiencing a drop in demand, hire discount techniques might not be the reply, as a result of there won’t exist takers at any worth. Landlords should be able to make the deal that’s in entrance of them, in order that they want to ensure they see each present deal. Their constructing must be a spot the place tenants have a must go, together with proximity to authorities places of work or bigger occupiers, entry to a RAD community or representing a big improve in high quality from a earlier area. Throughout {the marketplace}, we’re seeing longer durations of free hire to entice tenants and assist them survive by way of potential months of financial uncertainty.

Are there any specific areas which are robust within the D.C. and Baltimore areas?

Protection and well being care stay the brighter components of the workplace financial system. Protection contractors, together with cyber-related actions, require safe workspaces to conduct delicate assignments in correct workplace environments. The well being care sector takes on many types of occupancy and crosses geographies, workforce populations and asset sizes.

The expansion within the bio sector can be entrance and middle with exercise. Massive, well-leased services are buying and selling, and new building is filling pipelines in key markets, together with Washington, D.C.  Sturdy markets are sometimes the results of the presence of underlying analysis universities or authorities departments.

What does a savvy advertising and leasing technique appear to be immediately?

A savvy marketer is conscious of the necessity to handle their model buoyancy by way of a mix of digital advertising — which creates and sustains consciousness — mixed with an amenity narrative that resonates with potential tenants. Clear, protected and well-managed buildings are enticing to cognitive tenants coached by equally cognitive actual property brokers.

How would you challenge the remainder of 2023 and 2024? Will the workplace market proceed down this path?

Within the coming months, landlords might want to handle new dynamics that instantly have an effect on worth. This consists of a rise in working prices throughout the board, a lower in earnings attributable to increased vacancies and doubtlessly a drop in rental charges, vital tenant enchancment prices required to put in a tenant, and elevated rates of interest and constricted lending phrases within the occasion of the necessity to refinance.

In some circumstances, homeowners who’ve held properties for an prolonged time period needs to be considering a sale at a market-driven worth (i.e. increased capitalization charge) versus changing into the frequent examine author for a needy, aging-in-place asset. A sale to the subsequent investor, who believes they’ll make issues work higher, or for a teardown, notably in an older, land-constrained market, may be a sensible play.

Keith Loria could be reached at


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