Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

SoMa and The Next Generation of Office Space

I am in San Francisco this week for the ULI Fall Conference had a chance to tour Airbnb’s headquarters on Monday.

Their building was the definition of cool. You can read all about it here, but in short, it’s a century-old former battery factory in “SoMa” the hot new tech area South of Market Street, hence the name. The building was re-purposed into a multi-tenant space, with Aechelon Technology, Concur and Pinterest also leasing space here.

To me, it was amazing that just a few years before, the average income for the area was just over $10,000 a year. One of the developers told me that when he was growing up in San Francisco, his parents would allow him to go to Haight-Ashbury but not South of Market Street. Now one bedroom apartments rent for upward of $6,000 per month, and offices are renting for $75 a foot.

All this seems to stem from the Millennials’ wish to live where they can work, play and have a sense of place. Pretty simple. Airbnb has about 200 hundred employees at their headquarters, and most of them bike to work. (It doesn’t hurt that SoMa and the Mission District are relatively flat.)

The impression I received was that it was harder and harder to get people to live in places like Mountain View or Palo Alto, the historic center of the tech universe. As someone else said to me, folks today do not wish to work in their father’s office space. They want work somewhere unique and updated that feels more like home. Seems fairly simple for the rest of us…Except maybe the expense of creating these elaborate environments.

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Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.