Office W Minnesota

Want to develop an office building that will attract today's top employers? Better include residential-style amenities


Companies that want to attract and retain the best employees gain an advantage when they do business from office buildings that offer such amenities as modern fitness centers, cafes, retailers and rooftop patios.

Companies that want to attract and retain the best employees gain an advantage when they do business from office buildings that offer such amenities as modern fitness centers, cafes, retailers and rooftop patios.

Just ask Bob Pfefferle, director with real estate firm Hines. His company in July began construction on the 220,000-square-foot T3 office development in the fast-growing North Loop neighborhood of downtown Minneapolis. One of the selling points of this speculative office building is that it offers amenities that Pfefferle says you'd normally find only in high-end apartment projects.

Companies that move to T3 will be able to offer their employees an on-site fitness center, more than 100 stalls of bicycle parking, a shared roof-top patio deck and more 12,000 square feet of ground-level retail space.

Pfefferle says that these amenities are becoming a must in modern office space.

"Office buildings today are becoming more comfortable, more welcoming and active spaces," Pfefferle said. "Americans work more hours than do people in any other country. We are always striving for that right life balance. We are looking for that more enriched lifestyle. Employers want an engaged and productive workforce. To help accomplish this, people are looking to work in innovative office spaces that do offer amenities that you'd typically associate with residential."

Companies that invest in amenities that make employees healthier and happier are spending their dollars wisely, Pfefferle said. Happy employees tend to work harder. They also turn in higher-quality work.

It might cost employers more to move into a higher-quality office space that offers more amenities. But such a move, too, counts as a solid investment, Pfefferle said.

"The biggest expense employers have is their employees," Pfefferle said. "If they can increase the efficiency of their employees or make it easier to retain their best workers, the money they spend on a cool, innovative office space will pay for itself in no time. That's what we always ask ourselves when we are developing an office space: What can we do to provide a better space for those who will occupy the buildings when they are done?"

Location matters, too, of course. Employees will be happier if they work in office space located near where they live. This cuts down on a long commute. And nothing knocks employees' life-work balances out of whack more than spending an hour getting to and from work each morning.

This is why so many new apartment projects are rising in the urban centers of cities across the Midwest. A growing number of people want to take short rides on public transportation to their jobs each morning. They don't want to inch their way to work on jammed highways. Others want to ride their bikes to work or even walk to the office.

Hines' T3 project, scheduled to open in the early fall of 2016, gives workers this option. It is being built in one of the hottest of Minneapolis' downtown neighborhoods, the North Loop. Companies seeking to attract and retain employees can point to this prime location as another selling point, one especially attractive to workers who want to live near where they work.

"The North Loop neighborhood has become a hotspot," Pfefferle said. "It is attracting creative firms looking for office space in the area. We are seeing new multifamily projects in the area, too, and chef-driven restaurants seem to be opening up every other day. There are new boutique shops coming in. There is just this coming together of a lot of things that continue to make this an even more attractive site for a new office project."

The seven-story T3 should be a good fit for the neighborhood, which features several brick-and-timber buildings. Hines saw that these older buildings were attracting a steady stream of tenants. This lead to a big question: Why not combine the aesthetics of a timber office building with the amenities of modern office space?

T3 will be a timber building, its name standing for timber, transit and technology. Unlike the older timber buildings in the North Loop, though, T3 will offer modern office space. The building's large industrial-inspired windows will let in plenty of natural light, while each of T3's designated office floors -- floors two through seven -- will offer 34,000-square-foot floor plates.

"When we looked at the area, the light bulb went on: Why can't we do another of these timber projects that will appeal to the CEO, CFO and employees?" Pfefferle said. "We love the aesthetic of these old timber buildings. But what isn't so great about them are the acoustics. You can hear people walking around on the floor above you. The HVAC systems might be inefficient. The overall connectivity of the buildings might be spotty or lacking. With a modern version of these buildings, you can provide the aesthetics and the feel but with the amenities that companies expect from modern office space."