CapitaLand Stays Upbeat On Coworking Spaces

Singapore’s CapitaLand Stays Upbeat On Coworking Spaces

SINGAPORE – Proving that it’s still bullish on the coworking industry, CapitaLand is poised to officially launch its Bridge+ flexible workspace in the city-state by 4 January 2021, reported The Business Times on Friday morning (18 December, SGT).

Situated across three levels at 79 Robinson Road in the central business district (CBD), the 56,000 sq ft coworking space allows members to book desks as well as meeting rooms and event spaces.

Overall, the 29-storey office tower comes with 518,000 sq ft of net leasable area, of which more than 70 percent have been leased to multinational corporations like Allianz and EFG Bank, with more tenants in the process of moving in by December 2020 and January 2021.

The Grade A office building – which is jointly owned by CapitaLand, Mitsui & Co, and Tokyo Tatemono – obtained its temporary occupation permit (TOP) in late-April 2020.

In a recent interview with the news agency, CapitaLand’s Managing Director for workspace and residential Chew Peet Mun revealed that they are in advanced talks with several lessees that will significantly raise 79 Robinson Road’s occupancy level.

At the upcoming Bridge+ space branch, the company intends to establish a “FinTech hub” by accommodating tech firms, financial institutions, venture capital companies, and international organisations. In fact, members that have committed space at Bridge+ in 79 Robinson Road include Tribe, Alibaba Cloud, and Bank for International Settlements.

The concept is to foster an ecosystem wherein large companies can network and exchange ideas with small firms via curated events like hackathons, seminars, and interactive exhibits. But at present, only virtual events are being conducted as physical ones have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To promote collaboration, CapitaLand also intends to link tenants and members with stakeholders like universities, industry bodies, and government agencies. “It goes beyond that singular area of space – there’s an entire precinct and ecosystem we’re activating,” noted Chew.

The upcoming coworking space will be the second branch under the Bridge+ brand here, followed by the opening of a 30,000 sq ft flexible workspace at Ascent within Singapore Science Park in October 2017. Bridge+ Ascent’s members include Shopee, Barramundi Asia, The FinLab by UOB, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Average lease duration there is usually 1 year, with an option to renew for an additional year.

Outside Singapore, Bridge+ has branches in Shanghai, Dalian, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Chongqing in China, as well as Bangalore in India.
While Chew admitted that the coworking industry has also been negatively affected by the health crisis, he believes that flexible workspaces will remain in-demand as remote working has prompted businesses to review their office space usage.

“Companies that previously didn’t even believe in flexible working are now suddenly thrust into this environment where it can and does work,” he pointed out.

Chew revealed that the average actually occupancy rate of CapitaLand’s office space in the CBD currently hovers at 30 to 40 percent due to COVID-19 workplace restrictions. Physical occupancy level of flexible workspaces is slightly lower than that, but its coworking space operator tenants are still paying rent.

Moreover, he shared that flexible work spaces enable small firms to be housed in Grade A office buildings, as they usually can’t afford leasing a large amount of office space for a long time. Also, the income generated by establishing a coworking workspace in an office building is usually not worse off. It’s even slightly higher sometimes than if the premises were rented out to just 1 tenant, as smaller or multiple tenants could end up paying a higher rent in psf terms.

Apart from Bridge+ and leasing space to flexible workspace operators like JustCo and WeWork, CapitaLand has also invested in coworking space provider The Work Project.

Meanwhile, Cushman & Wakefield’s Associate Director for research Wong Xian Yang projected that roughly 360,000 sq ft of flexible workspace will enter Singapore’s market next year compared to 250,000 sq ft in 2020.

“Given the desire for flexibility and cost containment strategies by companies, we see continued take-up rates for coworking spaces. Coworking spaces allow companies to quickly and easily right-size their spatial requirements in response to prevailing business conditions,” said Wong.

He added that they expect coworking space operators to start establishing branches at decentralised areas to cater to businesses considering a hub-and-spoke strategy and those searching for workspace near the residence of their staff.

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