In the urban areas of many North American cities, office space has been created through the adaptive re-use of light-industrial structures constructed in the 1800s and early 1900s. These buildings tended to be low-rise, standing three to eight stories, with architecturally detailed facades. The interior attributes were equally distinctive, featuring high ceilings, abundant natural light, exposed structural frames, interior brick and hardwood floors. Not only did they perform very practical functions when constructed, they also served as a form of expression and identification for their original owner-users.
With appropriate restoration and retrofitting, these structures can become distinctive office buildings capable of satisfying the needs of the most demanding office tenants. They can be given additional vitality by incorporating retail uses at street level.
Restored and retrofitted buildings of this sort are now recognized as a distinct and important office category. Colliers International designates them as “Class I office properties”, the “I” stemming from the original industrial nature of the buildings.
Class I office properties offer a compelling value proposition to tenants:
They are located in close proximity to central business districts and are well served by public transportation.
They have distinctive internal and external environments, which assists tenants in attracting, motivating and retaining employees.
They have significantly lower gross occupancy costs than space in the office towers (in many cases up to 50% lower).
This value proposition has proven appeal to a diverse base of business tenants, including the full range of service and professional firms.