By Sasha Vasilyuk

Three men are discussing business strategy at a table in the newly redesigned lobby of Nema, a high-end San Francisco apartment building across the street from Twitter’s headquarters, as a pair of leasing agents give a tour to a potential tenant while outside a stream of cars rush along San Francisco’s busy 10th Street. Upstairs on the terrace, the heated pool sits undisturbed while in the nearby lounge a few young people in armchairs are quietly plugging away at their laptops. Downstairs, in the business center, a woman in glasses is working on one of the six desktop computers, while a businessman in a suit is having an intense discussion on the speakerphone in the adjacent conference room.

The 754-unit Nema, developed by Crescent Heights and opened in 2013, redesigned its southern lobby after residents indicated they’d like the apartment building to have more places for them to work.

A decade ago, when WeWork didn’t yet exist and San Francisco had only a couple of small coworking spaces, the idea of people needing anything besides their home and their office – a so-called “third space” – was still in its infancy. Accordingly, the amenities typically found in apartment buildings included standard features like a fitness center, a lounge for dining or entertaining, and at times, a conference room or a small business center tucked away somewhere on the lower floors. The Millennium Tower, which was completed in 2008 and was the primary example of a new type of luxury condo and apartment building that would crowd South of Market in the following years, additionally included a screening room, an indoor pool terrace and a wine cellar. What it did not include was a coworking space.

In San Francisco, luxury buildings are adding a place for tenants to work

Today, more and more apartment and condo buildings both in the Bay Area and beyond are offering a coworking amenity or a lounge that’s specifically designed to serve the needs of a casual workspace for residents and their guests.

“People work so differently now than they did ten years ago, that we see a large percentage of our buyers working from home at least part of the time,” said Matt Felt, vice president at Polaris Pacific, a real estate sales and marketing firm that is helping market twenty projects in the Bay Area in varying stages of development. “A coworking space is designed so that you can get out of your PJs, go down to the coworking space, and operate it [as] an office,” he said.

Polaris Pacific has just started selling 2177 Third Street in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, a 114-condominium project developed by Align Real Estate, which boasts amenities that include a coworking space.

A rendering of Mason on Mariposa’s lobby which is part of the amenity spaces. Courtesy of Related California.

“This project mirrors Uber’s new headquarters as well as the large mixed-use development at Pier 70, so there is an expectation that many of our buyers will be tech-savvy and will utilize this amenity,” said Felt. Uber’s new headquarters in Mission Bay and Pier 70 are just down the street from the Dogpatch neighborhood, and all have come a long way from their traditionally industrial beginnings.

Business centers have been in high-end condo buildings for decades, according to Felt.

“But it often became a space used once a month for the HOA meeting,” he explained. “It’s a funky space to work by yourself and usually there is a cost to reserve it. Now, it evolved into a higher designed, cooler space where more than one person can work from. It’s a reflection of how people changed how they work.”

Felt said that both apartment and condo developers are building projects with smaller units than before, so amenities have become an important way to reflect that residents will not live just in their homes but instead use the entire space.

“Another way to look at it is that units have become so small that residents are forced to work outside of them,” said Inna Rubinchik, regional leasing director at Compass. “So, having lounges that are designed and set up to work is becoming more important to leasing at very high rates.”

No matter where you look, San Francisco’s high-end developments are touting their fire pits, pools and yoga classes. Now, they’re also adding coworking to that list.

The recently launched Mason on Mariposa, developed by Related California with 299 units on Potrero Hill, promises “unmatched amenities enhanced by a mix of outdoor social spaces and intimate rooftop retreats.” One of those amenities is a coworking space with printing, free coffee, conference rooms and wi-fi.

“We know that remote work continues to be on the rise, so it was important we provide residents ample, tech-equipped spaces from which to work comfortably just steps from their apartments,” said Steven Oh, senior vice president of development at Related California. “Residents can work independently, gather in the communal spaces, book private conference rooms and take advantage of complimentary wi-fi and coffee as a part of the offering.”

The Mason’s amenities were designed by the Los Angeles-based Marmol Radziner. Ron Radziner, a design partner at the firm, said he is seeing this trend across their current projects.

“We see these spaces being utilized by a growing number of young professionals that have an ability to work remotely,” he said.

Radziner described the design trends of such spaces to include communal work tables, small individual soundproof rooms used as phone booths and varied lounge spaces and seating arrangements integrated within more structured spaces like offices.

“The design of the coworking space at the Mason reinforces a sense of community,” he said. “The lounge space with a built-in sofa, comfortable chairs and a communal table adjacent to the conference rooms make the space approachable.”

Avery 450, another development by Related California that opened this summer, offers similar space, and it’s far from being the only one. The Westerly, developed by Propriis and opening soon across from the San Francisco Zoo, will also feature a coworking space. Other recent luxury apartment buildings, such as Jasper, Mira, Solaire, 100 Van Ness and Alchemy by Alta, all offer a common space for working that includes various basic business amenities.

Some older buildings are also catching on and updating or even adding amenities to reflect the new trend. 

While Nema simply refurbished its lobby, Related California recently hired Marmol Radziner to create a brand new business center and lounges in the Paramount, its project on the corner of Mission and 3rd Streets. It is an amenity the project simply needs.

West Coast Commercial Real Estate News