DTLA Office Space Market Predictions: Much Ado About Office Space in Downtown LA
Mar 11 , 2020

For me, it has been an interesting ride in commercial real estate from when I first came to DTLA in 2008 to now. It was the lowest point of the recession. I was homeless at that time, and then I found myself staying with a friend who was living in a warehouse in the Fashion District. I connected with his landlord and started renting warehouse space for artists to do the same. Because I was so successful at it, I wasn’t surprised when the residential market exploded with growth. And equally, I wasn’t surprised that the industrial style or warehouse-look became increasingly popular.

I quickly found my services more in demand for smaller commercial real estate space than residential space. Also, I liked commercial better, and legally converting commercial space to live/work was and still is far too onerous, costly, and time consuming of a task. And it just was not worth dealing with how over-regulated, and quite frankly, bullshit-oriented the Los Angeles bureaucracy machine made it to make living in commercial space legal.

So I quickly focused on office, warehouse, showroom, & retail uses only. At the time, space having an industrial look in Los Angeles office space was a unique thing. And not to disparage it, because it is still as awesome as ever, after 12 years, the warehouse space look in office space is now basically the status quo.

So as you probably know the Downtown LA renaissance burgeoned into full flowering mode. Other things happened too. Ecommerce took flight. The face of retail has been changed forever. The type of commercial tenants in DTLA began to change from lawyer offices & sewing factory tenants to artists & “creative” tenants. And guess who specialized in artists and creative tenants? 🙂 Also companies became more ecommerce focused in their use. Manufactures steadily moved overseas and continue to do so with California’s over-regulation and increases in minimum wage.

As ecommerce flourishes, ground floor space in the Fashion District have seen showroom tenants dropping like flies, and dropping rent prices. This fact, and all the new development that has occurred has created a surplus of cheap cool ground floor space. And this surplus, has also amplified the surplus that has been created in the office market as well, because at the end of the day renters are going to compare pricing, location, style, and amenities and an increase in ground floor space also affects the overall creative office market.

Countless abandoned buildings or buildings that were once all sewing factories sold and were converted to live/work lofts. Many also converted into creative office buildings. Brokers sold developers/buyers on the idea that “You can get $3psf if you convert to creative office” and well, buyers bought it. Well, right now, it is pretty damn hard to achieve $3psf for office space in most of DTLA.

Another factor has been that, with the conversion of types of uses of space, there was once a far less supply of small office spaces in Downtown LA. As a result, more co-working spaces businesses have popped up, effectively increasing the completion of attaining tenants looking for space for 2000sf or less.

So basically, after such a long development and redevelopment run, now everyone and their mother is trying to lease out their commercial space to artists, and smaller commercial spaces are more abundant, and well the DTLA office market is more competitive overall, a lot more competitive. There is a surplus but it is a manageable surplus. It is not a huge, and not sure if I want to say big, but there is definitely strong competition out there. Since everyone is largely doing the same style, the name of the game has largely been who can offer the best price-per-square foot. And renters now a days, care a lot more about price per square foot than they use to.

I do not see these trends in the DTLA office space market ending soon. Depending on the economy goes, we could be looking at a continued slight surplus for at least a year. But the good news is there are things that can help landlords be more competitive, aside from price. Amenities are a nice thing, like a roof lounge, an on-site cafe or market, a shared common area of any kind like a game room, kitchen space, meeting/conference room, gym, and et cetera. And of course, we here at dtlarealestate.com are an incredible resource for landlords and tenants of all kinds looking for office space in Los Angeles, not to mention warehouse, showroom, and retail space as well!

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