Urban areas and suburban central business districts feature more and more mixed-use developments. These buildings cluster residential, office and retail / recreational uses in a single property or block. Live / work / play buildings and neighborhoods are hot trends in the real estate market of the early 2020s.
But there’s a whole other kind of mixed-use that might not be exciting, but is actually well suited to the needs of many businesses operating today. This type of mixed-use is the concept of mixing multiple uses in a single leased space. This type of space has many different names — office/showroom, business park, R&D, and flex — but whatever it is called, flex space can be a great choice for businesses that need easy to configure space at low cost, usually outside of congested and expensive urban CBDs.
A flex building is a property that is built to serve both office and industrial uses. Typically located outside of the urban core, these buildings are usually single-story with 10 to 20 foot clear heights. From the front, they typically have large windows, attractive entrances for each suite, and landscaping. In other words, they look just like suburban office parks.
When you drive behind the building, though, everything changes. There, you see (usually) concrete block or brick walls with grade- or dock-level roll-up doors. It’s an office in the front, and an industrial property in the back. This configuration means that the space is more flexible. It also means that it’s usually much less expensive than roughly comparable office or retail properties.
For many businesses, a hybrid of office or retail space and industrial space is a perfect fit. Home improvement showrooms featuring countertops or kitchen cabinets need retail space to show off their wares, then they need warehouse space to store what they’re selling so that it can be put on a delivery truck. Many businesses need additional space for large server rooms, document storage, and the like. In all of these cases, flex space can be a perfect fit for your needs.
The beautiful thing about a flex space is that it also doesn’t have to be a blend of office or retail and industrial space. If you want to build your space out as an office all of the way from front to back, you can. If you want to use it as a warehouse, that’s an option, too. Perhaps you want an industrial-chic open floor plan with no ceiling and temporary walls. You can do that. Alternately, you can also build traditional offices with drywall and with dropped ceilings. That’s what it means to have flex space — you can build it out as you need.
Of course, a flex space won’t have the prestige of a Class A office tower in the middle of your city’s downtown, and it won’t have the storage capacity of a 36-foot clear height warehouse. But if your business needs practical, flexible space at a low cost, expanding your search to include flex buildings could be a wise strategy.