Co-working has become one of the most popular commercial real estate trends in recent years. According to a newly released survey from website Deskmag, there were more than 7,800 co-working facilities worldwide as of October 2015—more than double the 3,400 that existed in 2013 and more than 10 times the mere 75 that operated back in 2007. The appeal of flexible work environments such as the ones provided by WeWork, Industrious and The Yard, among others, is pretty obvious to tenants: cost savings, creative collaboration and less commitment than a traditional leased office space.
Now there’s another emerging trend, and it’s a natural outgrowth of the co-working phenomenon: the shared executive conference space. Lately our firm has witnessed a number of companies booking full-service conference centers, which allow businesses to secure an off-site space for larger meetings, town halls, product launches, speaking engagements and seminars, in lieu of reserving a hotel’s conference room or space within a convention center.
These conference centers often include top-notch technology for information sharing and video meetings, seamless Wi-Fi connectivity and amenities galore. Many have breakout environments and collaborative zones where users can lounge, or phone rooms so that people can take private calls outside of a meeting, or work in seclusion. Executive conference suites are frequently equipped with bathrooms with showers and locker rooms so that visitors can refresh and often have large multifunctional cafés and food service spaces that participants can meet in or have handy during all-day affairs, providing a more work-oriented environment than a traditional hospitality venue. Need to get in touch with the office between sessions? No need to seek out a hotel lobby computer or request a Wi-Fi password: Workstations are at the ready.
The model clearly works and is catching on. Our firm recently completed two shared conference facilities and is in talks for another. One, Merrill Corporation, a global provider of secure content sharing, regulated communications and compliance services located at 1325 Avenue of the Americas, offers 24-hour customer service, a full administrative and catering support staff and everything a business would need to connect and do business across any time zone. The demand is there with clients ranging from law firms who need to book eight conference rooms for a closing and media companies that want a space to house large quarterly meetings to organizations hosting educational events for 100 to 200 people.
Technological advancements have made the shared executive conference spaces even more popular among international firms. One perk: the ability to tap into the latest and greatest in video conferencing equipment by renting it for the duration needed.
Shared executive conference rooms, similar to Merrill’s, including those on retail, ground levels of office buildings, are popping up all over New York City and beyond. Are these meeting houses the next logical step in co-working? Absolutely. They save clients money and are an excellent alternative to designing additional conference areas within an office space; they reduce the need to constantly update meeting room technology; they allow the flexibility of booking a space on short notice; and they can be customized to accommodate everything from large town hall-style meetings to intimate video conference sessions and everything in between.
The next wave of conferencing is already here, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, I have a feeling it will impact the office design of tomorrow and more firms that are on the fence when deciding on the number of conference rooms they’ll need will opt to take that function off-site and use their square footage—and real estate dollars—for other meaningful functions.