Sharing Office Space Can Be Suite

September 24, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — More than a dozen tenants in the Trust Building will be displaced to accommodate Standard Federal Bank’s move into the building next summer.

George Wanty, general partner and head of the building’s management group, said none of the building’s long-term tenants are moving out.

They’ll just be relocated to other space within the building, and the building will be fully occupied when their relocation is complete.

The only tenants that will be leaving are those that need an executive suite setup, Wanty said. They are the month-to-month tenants that lease an individual office but share reception services and office machines provided by the building’s management.

He said 15 to 18 tenants are in that type of arrangement now.

“We just aren’t going to offer that anymore,” Wanty said. “So it’s not a question of whether they want to stay here and are being forced to move out; we won’t have the right facilities for them anymore.”

Wanty said he offered space to those tenants, but they’ve chosen not to stay simply because the Trust Building can no longer furnish the secretarial backup they need.

Attorney Jason Barrix has worked out of the building for a couple of years and is one of 14 lawyers on the fifth floor in an executive suite arrangement.

“I think everyone kind of knew that this was always a possibility,” Barrix said. “They’re redoing the building, and as the courthouse went up, it became a more desirable location.”

He said some attorneys have come and gone from the shared space arrangement and some have been in it a long time.

Some of them would like to continue the arrangement but everybody’s keeping their options open, he said. He’s considering both downtown and suburban locations.

Barrix said he understands what the building’s management is doing.

“I think they’re doing what they need to do for business,” he said. “Would you rather have one tenant taking three floors or 30 tenants taking three floors? It’s probably better for the building to have one long-term tenant.”

Executive suite arrangements, however, are still available at least two downtown locations, Grand Rapids Suites in the Founders Trust Building, 169 Monroe Ave., and Cooper’s Landing, 1345 Monroe Ave.

Tim House, office manager and human resource director for Grand Rapids Real Estate Co., said the interest in Grand Rapids Suites tends to come from people who need a small, inexpensive office on a more permanent basis to maintain a presence here.

The suites have limited vacancy at this time, House said.

Both Grand Rapids Suites and Cooper’s Landing offer reception services, voice mail, copier and fax machines, and common conference rooms and kitchen space.

Mike DeVries, director of sales and development for Ed DeVries Properties Inc., said Cooper’s Landing continues to see demand for the arrangement.

Cooper’s Landing also provides free parking, which is very attractive to people, he said.

“It’s just a good value for a smaller business or a larger company that wants to have a presence downtown,” DeVries added.

Elizabeth Slane, executive vice president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater Grand Rapids, said she’s heard some tenants sublet the space they lease to create similar arrangements.

“There are probably tenants that offer that type of service but we wouldn’t have record of that,” she said. “It’s more of a personal type of arrangement.”

Executive suites also are available in at least four suburban office buildings, including Charlevoix Business Suites, Choice Business Services & Executive Suites, Executive Offices LLC and Regal Office Service.

Susan Jones, office assistant for Executive Offices, said all the offices in her building are currently occupied. Each occupant has an individual office and access to shared reception, office machines and UPS shipping service.

Jones said business dropped off slightly after Sept. 11 last year, but made a big come back in April, and she hasn’t seen any drop in demand since then.

“The whole genesis of executive suites was that they would create, for a company moving from out of state or looking to open up a new office, kind of an incubator to larger space. That’s what the use was,” said John Mundell III, vice president of CB Richard Ellis/Grand Rapids. “It’s still very popular.”

Part of the problem is that shared space arrangements tend to have a lot of turnover, and nobody wants to end up with 50 percent vacancy, said Jack Buchanan, president of Blue Bridge Ventures and owner of the Brass Works Building.

But he noted that executive suite setups, sometimes referred to as “hoteling,” are still fairly prevalent in large markets.

Brass Works Building management has just designed plans for 15 single offices in one area of the building, he said.

The arrangement will give those tenants shared use of copier and fax machines, but probably won’t offer shared reception services.

“We haven’t fleshed it out completely. We may wind up putting in a phone system, voice mail and e-mail and some of those things, but we wouldn’t have staff.”

Buchanan said one of the unique things about the building is that it’s in a Renaissance Zone, so tenants can take advantage of the zone’s tax benefits.           

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