The Artisphere is gone. In its place near the Rosslyn Metro, workplace developer Regus will lease the space from owner Monday Properties to develop 45,000 square feet of new office space. The development is called SPACES and features an open space design. But with Rosslyn currently sitting at a 27.7 percent office vacancy rate, the highest in Arlington, what does it need with more office space?
“It’s geared towards a different type of office user than a traditional office space,” said Alex Iams, assistant director of the Arlington Economic Development. “This is for individuals who may work for a company, or a small segment of a company, utilizing it as a flexible work space. It may be a small segment of a company. It’s all about flexibility. It’s a different product for a different office environment.”
“With its diverse services and prime location, 1101 Wilson Blvd is one of Rosslyn’s most unique buildings.”
— Tim Helmig, President and Chief Operating Officer, Monday Properties
“It is important for our community to continue to invest in itself and align the neighborhood with market demand.”
— Mary-Claire Burick, President, Rosslyn Business Improvement District
Iams pointed to tech startups like 1776 in Crystal City as an example of a new kind of industry requiring a new kind of office space. The 27,000-square-foot workspace occupied by 1776 was renovated to be more suitable to a budding start-up’s needs when it was previously owned by the Disruption Corporation. According to Iams, the new offices are co-working spaces, office space shared by employees at different companies: essentially corporate roommates. Iams says this trend has become commonplace in New York City, Chicago, and Boston.
“In a way, the D.C. area is catching up with the demand on this,” said Iams. “We’re happy to have it.”
Tim Helmig, president and chief operating officer of Monday Properties, said that the developers will be making changes to the architecture to make it more co-working friendly.
“Co-working is becoming increasingly popular with millennials and those who prefer a more flexible workspace,” said Helmig in an email. “With its diverse services and prime location, 1101 Wilson Blvd is one of Rosslyn’s most unique buildings. SPACES will use the former Artisphere as co-working office space, a part of [a] broader expanding sector within the office marketplace which Rosslyn is ideally suited for.”
Mary-Claire Burick, president of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, said the area needs to continue to develop new and up-to-date offices if it wants to remain competitive in the D.C. office bidding wars.
“Rosslyn and Arlington compete with communities across the D.C. area, and new investment maintains the commercial, residential and retail momentum that allows us to attract tenants,” said Burick in an email. “In fact, the numbers show there is a 'flight to quality' in the D.C. metro region with newer, higher class office space seeing a significant increase in tenant signings and older buildings seeing a reduction in tenant occupancy. Rosslyn accounts for less than one percent of Arlington's land area yet provides 23 percent of the county's annual commercial property revenue. It is important for our community to continue to invest in itself and align the neighborhood with market demand.”
But with eight million square feet of vacant office space throughout the county, questions remain about what to do with all the empty and outdated space.
“There are several ways to address it,” said Iams. “[We can] work closely with development and leasing partners to get it filled with new types of users. Another way is adaptive reuse, conversion to residential space, whether that’s traditional or luxury apartments, or micro units with a communal living space. There are some instances where a building is demolished and rebuilt with mixed use.”
According to Iams, there are a variety of factors that can make building demolition the most economically feasible options. Iams said the age of the building and the floor to ceiling height are two of the biggest architectural issues that can’t just be redeveloped.
As each year passes, the vacant buildings become less and less appealing to investors, making demolition more likely.
“It’s a difficult market right now, especially for the quasi-antiquated products from the ‘60s,” said Iams. “Those are the ones more commonly associated with demolition or conversion. Ones from the ‘80s and ‘90s are going through refreshes. That means more amenities and more lobbies. Whether that’s a recreational facility or retail or just other benefits, you see that kind of thing happening.”
Ultimately, Iams said the change coming to the Artisphere is emblematic of a Rosslyn trying to keep its office space competitive.
“It fits into a broader narrative about changes to a physical environment and a market,” said Iams. “It’s part of a progression away from the federal government as the main user and towards a diversification of users.”