How the K.C. Startup Scene is Changing Tenant Representation

Plenty of the old stalwarts of the traditional workspace can be found in Kansas City. You know the workspace I mean: offices with doors, cubicles in the middle, a reception desk out front.

If you were starting a new business, this used to be your only option.

Not anymore.

Kansas City has made a name for itself for entrepreneurial spirit, a place where a startup founder can deliver on that one brilliant idea. As more and more of these entrepreneurs grow out of the home office and into a physical office, however, their concept of the perfect workspace for their creative teams usually doesn’t include a cubicle and a corner office.

Startups helping startups

We were proud to be part of bringing Edison Spaces to Overland Park, which is a great example of how the growing startup community is spawning additional successful companies willing to provide solutions for entrepreneurs who might be struggling to find the right fit. Matt Druten, co-founder of Edison Spaces, explains how he came to create this new concept:

“While growing another startup, we went on the hunt for office space. We needed a 500- to 600-square-foot office with a six-month lease. But every broker we talked to said that product doesn't exist. Expensive leasing options had the space but required multi-year commitments. Co-working venues seemed to lack adequate privacy and sufficiently large offices for more than one or two people. That’s when the lightbulb went off.”

The result is an attractive work environment that prioritizes privacy and focus while still providing a flexible space for growing teams.

WeWork in Corrigan Station is another prime example of how new businesses that cater to startups are changing the landscape of tenant representation.

Where’s the ping-pong table?

Of course, these new types of tenants bring with them requests for new office layouts and amenities. Gone are the days of the “universal fit” office environment. Jake Levinson shares in Propmodo that the difference is like going from AMC’s “Madmen” to HBO’s “Silicon Valley”:

“Tenant representatives have witnessed firsthand the change … Previously, office space inquiries addressed traditional requirements: divisible offices, cubicles, office intensive layout and reception in the entry … Now the majority of tenant searches focus on creativity: high ceilings, vibrant natural light, brick and timber aesthetics, open floor plans, call booths, and abstract amenities...”

For Kansas City, the shift has been positive. We’re seeing many classic buildings being converted into highly creative hubs, especially downtown and in the Crossroads. What many of us remember as run-down and often dangerous neighborhoods are now thriving with energy and life as these new innovators move in.
We’re also no longer tethered only to areas around a business district or a certain block of downtown. Startup Village, for example, has flourished in the West Plaza district, nestled among residential streets and straddling a state line. Many successful startups have found their first office home there among others at the same stage of development.
These new trends require that we remain as flexible as these startups. After all, as these new companies grow, they often evolve from a two-person desk to a small office suite, and eventually may desire a more traditional office space. Nicholas Farmakis elaborates in the New York Times:
"Once tech companies get to a critical mass of employees, they realize that those funky buildings present more of an operations hassle versus any modern office building. They have become part of the establishment and are taking a more mature approach about various business decisions, like where to house their employees.”
In the meantime, that means as tenant reps it’s up to us to assist these startups along their journey, staying as nimble as they are so we can help them grow at each step along the way—no matter what their size. It starts with finding the perfect match that not only enhances their business venture but also adds to the allure of our Kansas City spirit.
If we want to compete for these top innovators, we’ll need to continue to follow the lead of these progressive founders—and adjust accordingly as we go along.
John Coe is senior vice president of tenant and corporate services at Copaken Brooks, a full-service commercial real estate firm headquartered in Kansas City and serving the Midwest. The company’s full suite of services includes: tenant representation and HQ relocations, condo management, property management, asset management, development, investment acquisition and sales, leasing (office, retail and industrial), and construction management. Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @CopakenBrooks.

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