(ICSC) A coworking franchise on the prowl for shopping center space

November 18, 2020

(ICSC) Shopping centers on the lookout for alternative tenant types to fill 15,000 square feet or more, take note. Venture X is on a mission to fuel the coworking sector’s growth through its franchising model. The eight-year-old firm has 31 locations in the U.S., three in Canada and one each in Costa Rica, Dubai and the U.K. Shopping centers like Las Colinas Village in Irving, Texas, and Rosemary Square in Florida´s West Palm Beach are among its landlords.

“Retail has always been part of our growth strategy,” said Paula Mercer, vice president of operations at Venture X, which is part of United Franchise Group’s family of companies. “We work with large shopping center and mall owners for opportunities in key markets.”

Each Venture X location offers private offices, community space, a cafe, technology services and the option to rent conference rooms, mailboxes and event space. Users pay membership fees. “Our spaces attract not only freelancers and entrepreneurs but also small and medium sized businesses, remote workers and more,” said Mercer. “We are designed to grow with our clients.”

The firm´s vision fits well with studies showing retail real estate is favored for workspaces. A 2019 Colliers International Retail Spotlight Report noted that consumers ranked shopping centers as their second preference among locations for coworking spaces. First, at least at the time, was a town or a city center surrounded by urban retail. “The demand and need for flexible working environments will continue to grow, as it’s no longer a trend but a lifestyle shift, and companies are acutely aware,” said Colliers national director of retail services Anjee Solanki.

RELATED: How Anjee Solanki got into the retail real estate industry

Shopping centers make ideal locations for coworking, as they typically are near airports, downtowns or hotels and offer amenities like fitness centers, restaurants, coffee shops and services like UPS and FedEx, according to Solanki. “For landlords, having this concept adds additional foot traffic sales and potentially new customers. These new customers will also share what they would like to see at the center, encouraging new uses that may be currently void.”

JLL estimates flexible space will account for 30 percent of all U.S. office stock by 2030, up from the 2.3 percent it estimated in 2018. In retail properties, it will grow at a rate of 25 percent annually through 2023, reaching 3.4 million square feet, according to JLL. Millennials love the collaborative concept, and older generations, used to traditional office settings, increasingly favor it, as well, explains Mercer.

Venture X is determined to stake an even larger claim in this niche market, planning to open 30 franchised units in 2021. In the U.S., Venture X operates in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Corporacion LadyLee, Honduras´ biggest landlord, announced in February the purchase of rights to develop the franchise in Central America, the Dominican Republic, Portugal and Spain. Its first Venture X opened this year in City Mall, a regional mall it owns in Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Venture X locations have rearranged furniture in their workspaces to comply with social distancing guidelines and to accommodate enhanced cleaning procedures. “We anticipate [the pandemic] to fuel growth long term rather than hamper it,” said Mercer. “Some companies are giving up their office space and are more interested in remote opportunities for employees, and employees are finding that working from home is not for everyone. These two major shifts will increase the growth already projected for coworking as we move into the next year and beyond.”

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