Office will undeniably face major changes following the pandemic. For some, that might look like home offices, for others, it looks like a return to pre-pandemic workplaces. Most, however, are expecting something in between. Architecture firm HLW Los Angeles—the company behind the renovation of Los Angeles’ Westside Pavilion—expects to see increased demand for low-rise office properties, which are better able to provide safe and clean workspaces with lower density.
“We anticipate that there will be a continued shift away from class-A high rises to what we call ‘groundscrapers,’ which create fewer moments for bottlenecks in terms of vertical mobility,” Sejal Sonani, a principal at HLW Los Angeles, tells GlobeSt.com. “As more attention is paid to creating workspaces that employees feel safe returning to, these types of buildings will grow increasingly attractive.”
The Westside Pavilion project is embracing this concept. Once envisioned as a mix of office and retail, developer GPI has decided not to include retail in the project. “As we finish out our work on this project, the goal is ultimately to identify a single tenant to occupy all three floors,” says Sonani. “From an HLW perspective, we’d love to be brought on to complete the interiors, as well, given our knowledge base and experience at the site. We also intend to use this project as an example of what to expect for the retail redevelopment landscape.”
The local market supports the shift in strategy. “Particularly in this part of Los Angeles, the demand for creative office space far outweighs the interest in retail,” says Sonani. “West End is located in an amenity rich sub-zone, so the pivot made sense for this particular property. This is actually the case for a lot of the urban projects in Los Angeles—the developments are surrounded by transit and amenities, so while the structures might not make sense as a shopping mall, they do make sense for creative office space.”
Rent trends are a major part of this decision as well. “At the end of the day, the potential for rent has to outweigh the cost of redevelopment, and when you look at a situation where you have flexibility of catering to a single, large tenant or a handful of smaller ones, it’s very clear that workspace is the better approach,” says Sonani.