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Trendy office fit-outs draw in the co-working crowd

Landlords are seeing demand for Instagram-worthy office fit-outs as the co-working trend gathers pace in Australia’s CBDs, according to agents at Colliers International.

“High-quality fit-outs drive inquiry and transactions,” Colliers manager of office leasing Milly Stockdale told a Melbourne breakfast last week.

“Tenants want space (their staff) can show off on Instagram and Facebook,” with features such as exposed ceilings, or floors made from timber or polished concrete, she said.

But prospective tenants struggled to look at a space and visualise a future refurbishment, meaning that after taking tours of a string of vacant properties, tenants were likely to only remember those that had been already fitted out.

Examples of photogenic offices in Melbourne included US-based big data firm Splunk’s office in the Rialto tower at 525 Collins St, and local software developer Fabric’s space in 446 Collins St, she said.

Trendy office fit-outs with plenty of amenities are often seen as a way of attracting staff, exemplified by Silicon Valley technology giants such as Google and Facebook, but are also a way for co-working providers to sell memberships to freelancers or entrepreneurs.

Local co-working pioneers include Fishburners in Sydney, the York Butter Factory in Melbourne and River City Labs in Brisbane.

US coworking giant WeWork, which has 33 locations in New York City alone and has launched in cities across Europe and Asia, opened in Sydney last year and has now found a site to set up shop in Melbourne.

Under a deal with the Liberman family’s Impact Investment, WeWork would open in 401 Collins St in 12 to 14 months, when a refurbishment is complete, WeWork managing director and head of real estate for Asia Pacific Evan Kleinberg told the breakfast.

WeWork’s model charges members to take a hot desk, a dedicated desk, or a small private office. Members have access to a kitchen and lounge, as well as the surrounding community and the accounting and payroll services WeWork provides.

The WeWork in Martin Place, in Sydney’s CBD, features timber floors and exposed ceilings, as well as a mix of desks and couches.

But hot desking was not the only type of space in demand, Colliers national director of office leasing Andrew Beasley said.