International Property

Developers give new meaning to ‘working from home’

Designers are creating dedicated workspaces in high-end residences that allow apartment owners to work outside their flats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 3:21pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 7:53pm

‘Working from home’ is taking on a whole new meaning. Developers of high-end residential buildings are tapping into the need for dedicated spaces to work that go beyond the standard spare room or, more likely in Hong Kong, a corner in your flat.

“It’s hard to incorporate a home office in a bedroom,” said Julie Quigley, sales director of Power Play Destination Properties, a Vancouver-based real estate developer. “Somehow neither objective is achieved.”

Developers are taking that to heart by creating dedicated work spaces within the footprint of the building – but not in the actual flat. It could be as part of a communal work-share space off a lobby, or a setup similar to a hotel’s business centre. Some are even adding facilities designed for specific professions – for example, a studio with audiovisual equipment where a resident who is a filmmaker can edit a movie he made, and then host a screening of it.

Ke Kilohana, a new development at the sprawling Ward Village community in Honolulu, will boast a space called The Hub – designed for meetings, conferences or just as a quiet place to work.

“It’s a space that is suited to the generation and demographic of our buyers – young professionals, lots of first-time home buyers, who need a place to work and also have some social interaction,” said Nick Vanderboom, senior vice-president of development for Howard Hughes Corp, which is behind the Ward Village project. In addition to the standard amenities – fitness centre, playground, catering kitchen – Ke Kilohana will also have an open-space setup with tables and chairs in different configurations, including a high-top counter with stools, to allow for formal and informal business meetings or solitary work time.

If you’re going to have people come see you for business, they shouldn’t have to come to your home with your family there
Francis Greenburger, founder, Time Equities

“It’s not a corporate feeling,” said Vanderboom. “It’s a modern high rise but it needs to feel like it’s part of someone’s home.”

Quigley, of Power Play, is overseeing renovation work on La Amada, a development near Cancun in Mexico, which will be complete next summer. Part of the revamp – which includes an expanded beach club and additional swimming pools – will also extend to an on-site business centre.

“A lot of people who move here might be retired but still need a place to work,” said Quigley of the 215-home development. “We intend to provide for them a place with desks and computers, something that has the look and feel of a five-star hotel, where they can take care of business, especially if there are noisy children at home.”

50 West, a luxury new building in New York, with flats ranging from US$2.5 million to about US$25 million, is going one step further: in addition to buying an apartment, residents can also shell out for one of 15 separate 300 square foot office suites.

“We tried to think of something the next guy didn’t,” said Francis Greenburger, founder of Time Equities, the developer of 50 West. “Our vision was that the apartment becomes an extension of your life. So instead of having friends in your apartment, you have them over for a barbecue on the roof. And similarly, we recognised that people might want to have a work space that was close to where they live, but not within it.

“If you’re going to have people come see you for business, they shouldn’t have to come to your home with your family there. You can go downstairs into your office, and lock the door behind you when you’re done.” The office units sell for around US$1,500 per square foot.

Certainly, builders are considering numerous ways to incorporate work facilities into a residential space; Atelier, in downtown Los Angeles, has a library as well as a business lounge, which is equipped with a pair of conference rooms; and Citizen360 on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, has a dedicated art studio and a multimedia studio, where residents can take video conference calls.

“There are so many things you can do in the multimedia room – even practise music,” said Citizen360 interior designer Clodagh. “I have a video artist in my family, and I started thinking ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to come down and work away quietly?’ ”

She, too, sees that developers are becoming increasingly particular about offering what nobody else is offering.

“We are recognising the changing work habits in the world,” she said. “Even if it’s making a tonne of window seats that someone can curl up on, so they can look out and see the sky while they work.”