COSTA MESA, Calif. — For Brendan McCracken, the new Canvas office campus in Costa Mesa can provide any company the amenities needed to make their employees feel enriched and inspired, productive, and most importantly, safe in the age of COVID-19.
The newly improved and designed five-building 541,600 square foot office campus at 3070-3150 Bristol Street sits less than a mile from the South Coast Plaza and adjacent SOBECA, the South Bristol Entertainment Culture and Arts, neighborhood.
The buildings are now linked by a central outdoor courtyard that features artwork by local artists, new outdoor furniture, shaded spaces, and an outdoor conference room. EQ Office, the campus owner, upgraded each building with new technology such as a mobile application that allows tenants to open doors without touching it and gives them real-time health and safety alerts.
The campus has been specifically designed to adapt to tenants' needs in the age of COVID-19 and post-COVID environment.
"As companies consider returning to the workplace, we know that health and safety are priority concerns," said McCraken, the senior vice president and portfolio director at EQ Office. "As experience designers, we also understand that the office is a place where companies will continue to foster their individual culture and ignite creative energy."
But if they upgrade it, will they come?
The newly upgraded office campus comes when statewide shutdown orders have forced employers to have their employees work remotely from home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. With many businesses adapting to the work-from-home situation for months now, some companies are questioning whether to keep their existing office space, adapt a hybrid model, downgrade, or, in some cases, eliminate it.
EQ Office, a subsidiary of real estate giant Blackstone, is just one of several office building owners that have upgraded their buildings as a way to bring workers back to work comfortably and safely.
The coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected Orange County's office market this year.
According to JLL, lease transactions 20,000 square feet and greater signed this year total of 1.8 million square feet, down 48% compared to the first three quarters of 2019.
The data further show that businesses are shying away from leasing space in towering skyscrapers. About 67% of office leases signed in 2020 are for low-rise buildings with five or fewer stories.
"Generally speaking, office leasing this year has been on a bit of a slow side," said JLL Senior Managing Director Jeff Ingham. "Right now, with this new shutdown, only about 10% of people are working on-site at office buildings, and those are essential workers. Before this recent shutdown, I would guess only 15% or 20% are working in an office."
There is good news on the horizon, Ingham said. The news of a vaccine has many of his office clients bullish that workers will begin to come back to the office – perhaps by next summer.
"I've heard from a lot of companies that they are excited to go back to the office, but from a liability perspective, they won't do it now," Ingham said. "I'm cautiously optimistic that by the second quarter after the flu season and the vaccine becomes available, I suspect we'll see a pretty good surge back to the office by the summer of next year."
EQ Office began repositioning Canvas last year, before the pandemic. The office campus built in 1989 was disjointed and outdated, McCracken said.
The company tapped Wolcott Architecture to redesign the site. CB Creative Agency curated the outdoor artwork that can be seen throughout the campus.
"Our goal with Canvas was to create a single cohesive space that would allow for connectivity between tenants and the community and weave in art and culture to both indoor and outdoor spaces," McCracken said.
McCracken said that now more than ever, building owners must develop areas with collaborative spaces, provide companies different leasing options, and emphasize health and wellness.
"We are confident that our design features and breadth of leasing options will provide tenants with a workplace that not only focuses on their health and safety but allows for the needed flexibility around where and how they work in an ever-changing environment," McCracken said.