flexing on Hou

Houston real estate report reflects growth in flex space

“Flex space has become a skeleton key that companies can use to address their changing office needs." Photo via Getty Images

Flex office space is finding favor with businesses in Houston.

While the Houston area’s office vacancy rate climbed as high as 25 percent last year, the region recently added more flex office space than any other U.S. office market on a percentage basis. From the fourth quarter of 2020 through the third quarter of 2021, the Houston market gained a little over 5 percent more flex space compared with the previous 12-month period, according to a data analysis by Dallas-based commercial real estate services provider CBRE.

Dallas-based Common Desk, a provider of flex office space being acquired by coworking giant WeWork, accounted for 84 percent of the Houston market’s net expansion of flex office space during the 12-month span analyzed by CBRE. Of the 152,977-square-foot net expansion during that time, Common Desk represented 129,000 square feet, CBRE says.

Common Desk has six open or soon-to-open spaces in the Houston area: five locations in Houston and one location in Spring. Aside from Common Desk, flex space operators in the Houston market include Houston-based Boxer Property Management and Austin-based Firmspace, as well as New York City-based companies Industrious, Serendipity Labs, and WeWork.

As of the third quarter of 2021, Houston’s inventory of flex office space stood at 3.1 million square feet. That was the seventh largest inventory among the 49 North American markets examined by CBRE. Flex space made up 1.4 percent of overall office space in Houston.

Flex office space appeals to a variety of tenants, such as startups looking to cut costs, businesses needing short-term space, and companies navigating the pandemic-driven rise in hybrid work arrangements.

“During the pandemic, flexible space has become a more important office amenity in Houston as companies respond to employee desires for flexibility in how they work,” Rich Pancioli, executive vice president in the Houston office of CBRE, says in a news release. “As companies seek to optimize their office portfolios, many are using flexible space as a key tool to test new strategies in a fast-changing environment.”

At one time, CBRE clients heavily emphasized amenities like food services, fitness centers, and health care facilities during their office searches, Pancioli says. Now, many clients are placing a greater priority on flex space or coworking space.

As demand goes up, developers such as Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management and Houston-based Hines (whose offering is known as The Square) have dipped their toes into the flex office pool. Hines has two flex office spaces in Houston and one space in Salt Lake City. When Hines rolled out The Square in 2019, it identified Atlanta, Boston, Denver, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, D.C., as potential expansion markets.

While Houston’s availability of flex office space increased during the period studied by CBRE, flex space providers in North America collectively trimmed their portfolios by 9 percent. That led to a decline in the sector’s share of the overall office market from about 2 percent to about 1.75 percent. However, a CBRE survey of 185 U.S.-based companies finds a growing appetite for flex space.

“Flex space has become a skeleton key that companies can use to address their changing office needs,” says Julie Whelan, CBRE’s global head of occupier research.

“They can use it to adjust their office portfolio as they figure out how hybrid work will affect their employees’ office use patterns. They can use flex space to quickly secure a foothold in new markets to tap a different base of talent,” she adds. “Some will use flexible office space to offer employees more choice like access to physical space closer to their homes. In short, flex space allows companies to be more nimble.”

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Building Houston

 
 

The latest cohort from gBETA Houston has been announced and is currently underway at the Downtown Launchpad. Photo courtesy

A national startup accelerator has announced its fifth local cohort, which includes five Houston companies participating in the spring 2022 class.

Madison, Wisconsin-based gener8tor has announced today the five participating startups in gBETA Houston. The program will be led by Muriel Foster, the newly named director of gBETA Houston, which originally launched in Houston in 2020 thanks to a grant from from the Downtown Redevelopment Authority.

The program, which is designed to help guide early-stage startups find early customer traction, connect with mentors, and more, is based in the Downtown Launchpad, and is free and does not take equity in the participating companies. The cohort kicked off on April 21 and concludes on June 10.

The new cohort includes:

  • Founded by CEO Steffie Thomson a year ago, Getaway Sticks has designed a shoe that gives women the painless support they need using athletic foam to create a shoe that gives women the painless support they need. Getaway Sticks provides the solutions to women’s #1 wardrobe complaint of high heel pain. Since launch, the company has earned over $35,000 in revenue from over 150 customers.
  • Through a combination of software and hardware technology, LocBox is rethinking the shopping experience for online and local purchases. If you shop, ship, or have food delivered to your house, LocBox will make your life easier. Led by CEO Sterling Sansing, LocBox has previously participated in the Texas A&M MBA Venture Challenge.
  • SpeakHaus is focused on equipping young professionals and entrepreneurs with public speaking skills through its on-demand training platform and group coaching program. Since launching in October 2021, SpeakHaus has facilitated 6 corporate trainings and coached 61 business leaders generating over $49,000 in revenue. The company is led by CEO Christa Clarke.
  • Led by CEO LaGina Harris, The Us Space is creating spaces intentionally for women of color, women-led businesses, and women-centric organizations. Since launching in June 2021, The Us Space has created partnerships with more than a dozen community organizations, sustainable businesses, and organizations creating positive economic impact in the City of Houston.
  • Founded in August 2021, Urban Eatz Delivery is a food delivery service app that caters to the overlooked and underrepresented restaurants, food trucks, and home-based food vendors. Urban Eatz Delivery has earned over $88,000 in revenue, delivered to over 2,000 users, and worked with 36 restaurant and food vendors on the app. The company is led by CEO D’Andre Good.

“The five companies selected for the Spring 2022 cohort tackle unique problems that have propelled them to create a business that solves the issues they once faced," Foster says in a news release. "From public speaking, apparel comfort, and food delivery from underrepresented restaurant owners, these founders have found their niche and are ready to continue to make an enormous impact on the Houston ecosystem."

it's Foster's first cohort at the helm of the program. A Houston native, she has her master’s in public administration from Texas Southern University and a bachelor’s in marketing from Oklahoma State University. Her background includes work in the nonprofit sector and international business consulting in Cape Town, South Africa, and she's worked within programming at organizations such as MassChallenge, BLCK VC, and now gener8tor.

The program is housed at the Downtown Launchpad. The five startups will have access to the space to meet with mentors, attend events, and run their companies.

"Creating (the hub) was a little like a moonshot, but it’s paying off and contributing enormous impact to the city’s economy. The five startups selected for the gBETA Houston Spring cohort will continue that legacy,” says Robert Pieroni, director of economic development at Central Houston Inc., in the release. “As these entrepreneurs chase their dreams and create something epic, they will know Downtown Houston is standing behind them. I am so proud of what Downtown Launchpad is already, and what it will become.”

Muriel Foster, a native Houstonian, is the new director of gBETA Houston. Image via LinkedIn

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