Look To Hospitality For The Future Of Commercial Real Estate And In-Office Work

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When you walk into the 30,000-square-foot space that constitutes Rockbridge’s new headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, there’s a good chance you won’t realize you’re in a private hospitality investment firm.

The entrance resembles a high-end restaurant or hotel, designed to be a beacon of the company’s culture. High ceilings, dim lighting, potted botanicals lining the entrance and a neon “Welcome to Rockbridge” sign set the tone for the rest of the space. Other areas, including one with a brick fireplace donning inserts for freshly cut wood, bookcases and barrel chairs arranged in a circle perfect for spurring conversation all seem to say, “this is your space.” It’s built for collaboration.

The entrance resembles a high-end restaurant or hotel, designed to be a beacon of the company’s culture. High ceilings, dim lighting, potted botanicals lining the entrance and a neon “Welcome to Rockbridge” sign set the tone for the rest of the space. Other areas, including one with a brick fireplace donning inserts for freshly cut wood, bookcases and barrel chairs arranged in a circle perfect for spurring conversation all seem to say, “this is your space.” It’s built for collaboration.

But the risk has paid off, he says. “Our team feels at home and brings their families here to see our office, and the next generation of team members want to be here.”

Hospitality and the Future of Office Work

While there may not be a single “answer” to turn the commercial office industry around, Merkel said one potential solution could be companies and office investors looking to the hospitality industry.

“One of the great things about hospitality is it has always had to be consumer focused. You’re serving needs, but it’s also a consumer product that people get to choose daily,” Merkel says. “As a result, hospitality is a business model that has stayed on the cutting edge and has continued to evolve and stay relevant.”

Merkel’s thriving in-office culture is a stark contrast to what many other entrepreneurs are experiencing. Headlines in top business magazines, newspapers and online articles highlight the struggling commercial office sector, pointing the blame at employee desires to remain working remotely.

That’s putting it lightly.

“Property investment has plummeted. Leasing activity has dropped. Delinquencies have surged, and maturing mortgage loans face starkly higher refinancing rates. Large global firms plan to reduce office space as the trend toward remote work that accelerated during the pandemic persists,” Investopedia said, noting in the article’s headline that “Warning signals in U.S. commercial office markets haven’t stopped flashing.”

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