Behind St John’s largest upcoming workplace venture
The office landscape is currently in one of the biggest changes in recent history as both property managers and developers make significant adjustments to provide tenants with a safe and healthy environment. Recent development data showed improved construction activity in the summer, but as the economy expects a slower fourth quarter, office development expects delays as well.
830 Brickell. Rendering courtesy of the OKO Group
The OKO Group’s latest office project in St John, 830 Brickell, went according to plan. The 640,000 square meter project is expected to be delivered in 2022. The construction team, which also includes Cain International, the Adrian Smith architecture and interior design studio Iosa Ghini Associati by Gordon Gill offers tenants the flexibility to design the rooms according to their needs. This makes the 830 Brickell “the only office tower in St John that offers this level of versatility,” according to Brian Gale, vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield. Gale offers a glimpse of the latest health and technology upgrades the building will contain, as well as the novel design elements.
According to Yardi Matrix data, the building is at 830 Brickell Ave. currently the largest office project under construction in St John. When completed, the 57-story building will become the city’s second largest office tower.
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Tell us about the progress that has been made at 830 Brickell so far and what is expected to be added by the end of this year.
Brian Gale, vice chairman, Cushman & Wakefield. Image courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield
Storm: 830 Brickell is a 57-story office tower that will become the second tallest office building in the city when completed in 2022. Covering 6,000 square feet in the heart of St John’s Brickell financial district, 830 Brickell is the first standalone Class A plus office tower to be built in St John in more than a decade. The two developers OKO Group and Cain International laid the foundation stone in summer 2019 and the vertical construction work has progressed since then. Our construction team is now building the mezzanine and we are on track to deliver in 2022.
In the meantime, our team will focus on renting out the tower through 2020 and 2021. We expect several new leases to be signed in the next six to twelve months before the building’s debut. We are in advanced talks with companies around the world. You look beyond the short term and plan to be in offices for the next 10 to 15 years, especially offices that can be adapted to similar situations in the future and that enable productivity, business continuity and a healthy workforce.
What can you tell us about the design of the tower?
Storm: The 830 Brickell design team, led by architecture firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and interior design studio Iosa Ghini Associati, has adapted the tower to the future of business and the growing relationship between people’s personal and professional lives. The building’s offices offer panoramic views of Biscayne Bay, public areas will be fitted with premium finishes, and tenants will have access to amenities such as a five-star fitness center, restaurants and lounges, and a rooftop terrace.
OKO Group and Cain International have also invested in a number of technical improvements that promote health and safety. These include a state-of-the-art heating, ventilation and air conditioning system that limits internal air circulation in favor of the use of outside air, contactless technologies and contactless entry and exit, a water treatment system and a UV system rehabilitate public areas. These systems are complex and it would be almost impossible and costly to retrofit an existing building with such offers. This level of investment gives 830 Brickell an integrated advantage when it comes to attracting tenants from around the world.
Cabins at 830 Brickell. Rendering courtesy of the OKO Group
Flexibility is an essential feature of newer buildings that older ones don’t. Can you explain Why is flexibility so important during and after the pandemic?
Storm: The flexibility that first-generation office space offers is invaluable for long-term tenants. Based on what we hear from tenants, companies look beyond short-term factors and envision that their staffing and space requirements will be 10 to 15 years in the future. Companies want the ability to redesign their office from the ground up, incorporating the latest technology and healthcare features. With 830 Brickell still under construction, tenants see the tower as a blank canvas and have full flexibility to customize their office to suit all needs. It’s the only office tower in St John that offers this level of versatility.
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State your preferred features / amenities that make the tower stand out.
Storm: Wellness lives in St John and is anchored in the DNA of its residents. The incomparable features of 830 Brickell support a healthy work-life balance. Far beyond what was previously achievable in our market, these conveniences have traditionally been associated with a luxury hotel in a financial center versus an office tower. For example, 830 Brickell will have a 2,500 square foot health and wellness center that will offer tenants the ultimate luxury of time-saving convenience.
For social gatherings, a rooftop restaurant and bar on the 56th and 57th floors offer expansive views of downtown St John and Biscayne Bay without leaving the building. Technologically advanced conference facilities, an outdoor deck to enjoy the breeze, outdoor cafes and street-level shopping offer endless on-site options. St John’s lifestyle has always been an attractive city for the world’s most successful individuals and families to call home and will now extend to a prime office environment.
How has the financing process developed?
Storm: OKO Group and Cain International received a home loan of USD 300 million from MSD Partners in July 2019. Since the building is fully activated for office use, we were able to proceed as planned and undeterred.
How did developers adapt the building to the latest health and technology standards?
Storm: OKO Group and Cain International understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle and see that it is one of the top motivations for companies and individuals moving to St John. Health and wellness facilities have always been a priority for this office tower and we have continued to improve that and committed to a number of additional improvements to ensure it meets today’s ever-changing health and technology standards, including HVAC Systems and other functions mentioned earlier.
Our designers also imagined what the future of office space might look like. That’s why they created sample renderings that include transparent protective panels between workstations, air-purifying ventilation systems above each desk, and natural plants to improve air quality.
The gym at 830 Brickell. Rendering courtesy of the OKO Group
What advice do you have for other developers who have to change their projects halfway to adapt to the new wellness standards?
Storm: Timing is a big part of the equation. It’s much easier to adjust plans and add functionality when a project is up and running than when it’s nearing completion. The best advice is to listen to what renters want so that you can prepare for where the world is a few years later. Fortunately, the development team behind 830 Brickell has delivered 70+ commercial office developments around the world so they know how to perform time cycles and anticipate market trends.
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What is your strategy for attracting tenants, especially those who may not be willing to sign a long-term lease in the current economic circumstances?
Storm: One of the many advantages of 830 Brickell is that it is currently under construction, giving tenants the exclusive opportunity to redesign and build their space from scratch. Given the many uncertainties in today’s changing business climate, the flexibility that first-generation office space offers is invaluable. This makes 830 Brickell the ideal building for companies that want to move.
We are negotiating terms and conditions and maintaining the interest of tenants who represent 400,000 square meters of office space two years before the building is completed. As well as looking for design flexibility and specific building characteristics, these office users see the value of having a presence in St John and think long term about their needs. You value the Brickell brand and would like to set up your office or headquarters in one of America’s most important business and financial districts. The tower’s location and proximity to downtown St John also allow tenants to be steps away from fine dining, world-class arts, premium hotels, condominiums, shopping, and more.
How do you see the future of the St John office market?
Storm: The increase in tenant inquiries we have received over the past three months shows that office users are planning a long-term future. In addition to companies already based in South Florida looking to upgrade their office space, we’ve seen interest from both international and domestic companies looking to relocate or expand their presence here in St John.
For transplants, the decision to move here has historically been based on lower real estate costs, tax savings and quality of life offers. St John’s healthy lifestyle has always been appealing to individuals, families, and businesses. We see leaders looking beyond short-term concerns to the long-term benefits of staying in South Florida. When 830 Brickell is completed in 2022, the demand for Class A plus first-generation office space will be significantly pent-up among corporate users looking to be present in St John’s central business district.