CHICAGO—Craig Robinson of CassidyTurley kicked off a session on corporate real estate atyesterday's SIOR conference here with a soberingstatistic. In the past, growth in the number of office jobs wouldroughly coincide with increased demand from office users. But sincethe economy began adding office jobs a few years ago, corporationshave remained determined to shrink footprints by reconfiguringoffices into more collaborative layouts, among other strategies,keeping net absorption below the historical norm. Robinson askedhis fellow panelists if they could find a silver lining in allthese numbers. At first, as they spoke about their corporateclients, it was not easy.

“They still have 20% more space than they need,” saidMartha O'Mara, a co-founder and managing directorof Corporate Portfolio Analytics, a real estateadvisory firm in Cambridge, MA, and this should keep the overallmarket from returning to the days when job growth and netabsorption were closely linked. “It doesn't mean every market isgoing to be like that,” but the office sector in general isunlikely to see the return of boom times.

“Most of the corporate clients I speak and work with areshedding space,” said Sarah Bagby, theRichmond-based vice president and real estate leader atGenworth Financial. “[Real estate] gets looked atwith a very critical eye,” she added. However, instead of causing anarrow focus on cost per square-foot, squeezing employees into asmaller footprint has many clients focusing on the value they getper square-foot.

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Brian J. Rogal

Brian J. Rogal is a Chicago-based freelance writer with years of experience as an investigative reporter and editor, most notably at The Chicago Reporter, where he concentrated on housing issues. He also has written extensively on alternative energy and the payments card industry for national trade publications.