Area offices offer Silicon Valley-inspired amenities

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An employee of Southwest Austin semiconductor company NXP Semiconductors N.V. can hold meetings with colleagues at its expansive outdoor courtyard, practice yoga and join groups in the fitness center, then have lunch at its multi-option food court large enough to house all of its 500-plus employees at its West William Cannon Drive campus.

NXP also provides a workshop equipped with a 3-D printer and other creative tools for employees to use in their free time, said Kristen Day, NXP community relations and inclusion program manager.

Near the NXP campus, information technology management company SolarWinds offers catered lunch twice a week from local vendors in a cafeteria with a gaming area. Kitchens throughout the building provide free drinks. Open space as well as casual meeting rooms decorated with murals of local sights and attractions are located on every floor.

Jen Alessandra, SolarWinds senior vice president of human relations, said SolarWinds moved into its current space at a shared campus with AMD at 7171 Southwest Parkway two years ago, and the design principles of the colorful walls, casual meeting spaces and moveable whiteboards are meant to promote collaboration, openness and energy among employees.

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Andrew Smith, senior vice president of developer Lincoln Property Co., said he has seen the types of amenities incorporated into the design of office properties change dramatically in the past 30 years as businesses have changed to become “employee-centric.”

“It used to be that the only thing you needed in an office building was a deli, and healthy food was not an option,” Smith said.

Smith, who specializes in downtown properties, said the fundamental, basic downtown Austin office amenity package includes a fitness center, a place to eat, conference facilities, bicycle storage and electric car charging stations.

Most offices in suburban areas cannot justify a workout facility or deli, but in Southwest Austin, major employers such as NXP and SolarWinds are looking to attract and retain employees with amenities similar to those at downtown high-rises or Silicon Valley tech
campuses.

Office spaces in suburban areas include showers in designated restrooms because employees may ride their bicycles to work or during an exercise break, Smith said. With past experience in Dallas, Houston and New Orleans, showers as a standard amenity is unique to Austin, he said.

Although office space in suburban areas still tends to be traditional, some tenants have moved to “nicer buildouts” with modern amenities, said Seth Johnston, Lincoln Property Co. vice
president.

Lincoln Property Co. is developing a three-story, 175,000-square-foot office property at 7601 Southwest Parkway. The two buildings will be fully leased by YETI Coolers LLC, an Austin-based outdoor product company specializing in coolers.

Lincoln Property Co. is developing a three-story, 175,000-square-foot office property at 7601 Southwest Parkway. The two buildings will be fully leased by YETI Coolers LLC, an Austin-based outdoor product company specializing in coolers. (via Rendering courtesy Lincoln Property Co.)

Future modern development

A newer iteration of office development is a “lifestyle center,” or a place with office space mixed with retail, dining and entertainment for both office tenants and the public, Smith said. He mentioned the in-development Fareground to be built downtown, Mueller in Northeast Austin, Hill Country Galleria in Lakeway and The Domain in Northwest Austin as examples.

In South Austin, GroundFloor Development is working on St. Elmo, a mixed-use destination with office space, residential space, the future home of South Lamar Boulevard music venue Saxon Pub and the St. Elmo Public Market, an artisan culinary and retail center with restaurant space similar to Pike Place Market in Seattle or Chelsea Market in New York City. The 12-acre St. Elmo is to be located at 113 Industrial Blvd. off South Congress Avenue. Construction may begin in mid-2016 and finish in the first quarter of 2018.

Across the street, at 220 Industrial Blvd., architectural firm NoackLittle Architecture and Interiors is renovating a former paint manufacturing warehouse into modern office space for multiple tenants including NoackLittle. Firm principal Clay Little said he is “terraforming” the neighborhood that has not traditionally been an office area.

“There are a lot of metal buildings, concrete buildings and a lot of things that aren’t pedestrian-friendly,” Little said. “But, other bigger cities have already converted a lot of that old stock into truly unique and interesting alternative office space.”

Plans for 220 Industrial Blvd. include an outdoor Wi-Fi bar, bocce ball and sports courts, and showers.

Also in development in Southwest Austin is Austin-based outdoor brand YETI Coolers LLC’s new corporate campus at 7601 Southwest Parkway with two three-story office buildings totaling 175,000 square feet. Johnston, who is working on the project, said the office space design is still in development, so no design details have been finalized.

“YETI has a very creative and authentic company culture, so I would imagine that there will be some kind of amenity package that reflects that,” Johnston said.

At 5301 Southwest Parkway, San Francisco-based developer Drawbridge Realty is constructing an outdoor amenities center adjacent to its existing office building with food truck parking, covered and uncovered dining and lounge areas, a volleyball court and other features. Chris Elmendorf, Drawbridge Realty vice president of investments, said the amenities center provides modernization to the site and creates a corporate campus-type feel. The amenities center is expected to open in the
summer.

“That was the whole thought process for the amenities center, to have a seating area to do business, a place to clear your head and a place for employees to think [the office is]cool,” Elmendorf said.

A Wi-Fi-enabled outdoor pavilion with grills and a dining area is one of several amenities featured at office complex Encino Trace, located at 5707 Southwest Parkway.

A Wi-Fi-enabled outdoor pavilion with grills and a dining area is one of several amenities featured at office complex Encino Trace, located at 5707 Southwest Parkway. (via Courtesy Brandywine Realty Trust)

Recruitment and retention

The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce has recruited more than 400 companies to the region since 2004, chamber spokesperson Mike Berman said. In that time, 300,000 net new jobs have been created.

Having access to good jobs and being in a region that offers a work and life balance has helped Austin become a haven for millennials, Berman said.

“The amenities being offered go beyond Pop Tarts and pingpong tables,” Berman said. “To remain competitive [in recruitment], many chamber members have invested in fun and engaging work spaces combined with on-site amenities like fresh coffee and juice bars, spa and exercise facilities, clinics and access to a variety of wonderful food choices including food trucks.”

A decade ago, large office buildings would only have food service and fitness centers as amenities, and those features were not required for companies to stay competitive in staffing, said Bill Redd, executive vice president and senior managing director in Austin for Brandywine Realty Trust, the Pennsylvania-based developer of Encino Trace.

Encino Trace, located at 5707 Southwest Parkway, includes an outdoor multisport field, a crushed-sand volleyball court, basketball court, crushed-granite hiking trails, and a Wi-Fi-enabled outdoor pavilion with seating and grills, spokesperson Brian Doelzal said.

“In order to be competitive with other office products, particularly in office products delivered more recently, you want every edge you can get,” Redd said. “In addition to that, we are in the business not just to provide somebody a space to sit in, but we’re in the business now more than ever in providing productivity or the opportunity to be productive to our customers.”

San Jose, California-based tech company ARM Holdings moved into Encino Trace in August. Phil Hughes, director of public relations for ARM, said it is necessary to have some amenities to attract talent, but the work culture and environment is more important, adding that the environment fosters collaboration.

“We have many of these amenities in place to help contribute to a better work and life balance for our employees as well as giving them the opportunity to sustain their energy throughout the work day,” Hughes said.

Day said NXP hires recent graduates who know about the modern amenities provided at other tech companies, so the company knows it is important that the campus is a welcoming, collaborative open space with a contemporary feel.

“[The amenities] are the things that are going to make the work experience more well-rounded,” Day said. “It is also a great recruiting tool. We take somebody around the building, and they get to see, ‘Wow, I’m not just sitting around in a cubicle.’”

Johnston said tech companies are in a way catering to their employees by providing these modern amenities that are creating a living-room environment versus an office environment.

Johnston added that tech companies want the employees who come in to work at 8 a.m. and leave at 9 p.m. to be comfortable. If a company loses an employee, it takes two or three years to hire someone new and train them to the same level as the former employee.

“You lost out on time, and that’s the most important thing,” Johnston said.

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Joe Basco is the reporter for the Southwest Austin area. He joined the Community Impact team in May 2015. Joe was born and raised in Jacksonville, Fla., but lived in Midland for two years and reported for the Midland Reporter-Telegram before arriving in Austin.
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