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Expert Insights: Leslie Fajfar on the Market for Luxury Amenities in New York City Office Space Before & After COVID-19

| Commercial Real Estate News, Featured, Office, Q&A| Views: 0

Leslie Fajfar, CEO of Community Amenity Management and managing consultant of Community Fitness NYC (courtesy of Leslie Fajfar)

Our recent work-from-home survey showed how office employees who are now working remotely are looking to add amenities to their homes in order to create a better balance between their professional and personal lives.

Likewise, the commercial real estate sector is also working on adapting to current market conditions, as well as anticipating trends going forward. To that end, a recent panel discussion hosted by CommercialEdge and Bisnow on the state of office leasing during COVID-19 noted that most current activity involves lease renewals, with flexibility of terms taking priority over the long-term confidence that traditionally drives strong office leasing trends. What’s more, flexibility — whether through termination options, first right of refusal or other alternatives — has, in most cases, become the most desirable amenity in office leasing.

The panel also touched on the advantages that developers have during this process. Specifically, starting an office project from scratch allows them to more easily address occupant safety through air quality and proximity measures that are built into the overall design and engineering. It’s also more challenging to retrofit existing office space to incorporate elements like more outdoor space and wider corridors.

However, that’s not to say that operators of traditional office space have few or no options in adapting amenities to the current and future needs of tenants. So, we sat down with Leslie Fajfar, CEO and co-founder of Community Amenity Management and chief managing consultant of Community Fitness NYC, to discuss how both developers and owners — as well as managers of New York City office space — can increase the value and demand of their assets with the help of luxury amenities. Read our full interview below.

Q: Let’s start with some information on your team and some of the advantages your enterprise can contribute to the New York City office market.

“Community Amenity Management is a premier New York City provider of management, spa, and private training services in residential and commercial buildings. We deliver a quality, hotel-style service, which helps create immaculate and well-equipped facilities with management and programming that improves the enjoyment, health and fitness of residents.

“The demand in commercial spaces has become more dynamic. Pre-COVID, the demand for these spaces was increasing but, post-COVID, we are anticipating an even larger increase.”

Q: How has your experience of collaborating with property developers and owners been throughout the year? Did you, at any point, notice a significant shift in interest for luxury amenities in commercial property?

“Absolutely. The ‘amenities race’ wasn’t just in the residential market. The commercial market has been similarly competitive, though the types of amenities have differed in some respect. Demand for amenities in commercial real estate was a bit more gradual than on the residential market, and the service amenities within the commercial market have been more based on data and metrics regarding demand.

“The data shows that a well-integrated corporate wellness program increases productivity; lowers healthcare costs; increases employee retention, company morale and comradeship; and is incentivized via tax breaks. Service is the nucleus of the amenity landscape for both commercial and residential. From there, we are seeing different trends with regard to physical luxury.”

Q: What have been some of the most in-demand luxury amenities for NYC office space?

“1. Well-staffed internal fitness centers. 2. Tech advancements, particularly comprehensive, integrated mobile apps that are individualized for an individual building. So, essentially, a personalized app for each particular community. 3. Superficial pleasantries, such as coffee bars and juice bars.”

Q: While some smaller businesses understandably chose to vacate their office space in Manhattan, bigger players have been increasing their local footprint — Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have all notably expanded their NYC presence in 2020. In your recent experience, are big companies that are moving into the city more or less concerned with the level of amenities offered by property owners or developers?

“All of the major companies are concerned, as well as the smaller, high-yield companies. At the end of the day, companies are looking at a majority millennial workforce, with Gen Z close on its heels. The construct of the workplace is changing largely. What people are concerned about is changing, as well as their approach to where they want to work. Concurrently, employers are also reimagining how their offices and buildings identify them in the world.

“Big tech is largely driving industry worldwide, and they are also setting the tone as employers. An individual stating that they work for Google is a bragging right that extends well beyond a large paycheck and success. Success is a given. But, you also picture that person as lucky, happy, modern and having a highly enjoyable standard of living. This reflects incredibly well on the company and, subsequently, this is what the modern companies are seeking. Amenities play a huge role in all of this.”

Q: Are there any specific amenity demand trends that you expect to see in 2021 or beyond?

“Outside of the benchmark luxury amenities, personalized service will be a major demand. There will be far more focus on preventative health — the integration between the medical community and fitness, such as medical advocacy and frequent vital checks.

“Building integration will be big between homes and workplaces. Luxury owners generally own multiple properties; there will be more of a demand for seamless integration between people’s homes and workplace – particularly for people who have multiple residences and multiple offices.

“High-end amenity services [will also] extend outside of when they are actually at their commercial space. We’re looking at higher-end services that are able to integrate comprehensive health, wellness and medical services into one’s entire day — routine  services that extend well beyond a simple app; a comprehensive service that facilitates seamless integration for that one individual client in all manners.

“Even in large commercial buildings, people still desire the boutique feel. They want the personal touch and staff they can call their own.”

Interested in being interviewed for our Expert Insights series? Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] or check out other articles from our series here.

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