Achieva Credit Union, based in Dunedin, Florida, which was previously the sole occupant of its headquarters, has opened its offices to new tenants. | Business Observer

With hybrid work models all the rage in the wake of the pandemic, many businesses that can operate with at least a partially remote workforce are wondering what to do with unused office space.

Achieva Credit Union, with the help of real estate company Colliers International, has an innovative solution that addresses multiple challenges at once. Using its Dunedin headquarters, which it calls “Center Court,” as a sort of test bed, Achieva has launched a “housing” program for remote employees who want to work occasionally in the office on an ad hoc basis. In addition to this, he reconfigured the vacant parts of the building and made them available for rental to third-party organizations.

“Our #1 goal is to serve our members and be good stewards of their money,” says John Wintermeier, Chief Commercial Officer of Achieva. “As a member-driven organization it is our responsibility to make the most of our facilities, so we decided it was a good idea to explore leasing.”

On the other hand, several potential setbacks persisted with the strategy, namely security and property damage risks. Achieva, founded in 1937, is one of Florida’s largest credit unions, with some 153,000 members and $2.1 billion in assets.

This is not a typical landlord-tenant situation. They share the same space. Paula Smith, General Manager of Commercial Services at Colliers International

Wintermeier and Achieva Chief Marketing Officer David Oak, whose entire department has transitioned to working remotely, say the hospitality and rental efforts have gone smoothly – but only because credit union management has invested months of planning before taking the measurements.

“It took us almost a year to get our first tenant,” says Wintermeier. “It was deliberate. We immediately recognized that there was an opportunity in March and April 2020, when everyone was going home, and we needed to pivot.

Oak is quick to point out that the first step in the process was to make sure Achieva’s house was in order before opening it up to other businesses. And that meant a comprehensive, long-term evaluation of the effectiveness of its hybrid work environment.

“Don’t put the cart before the horse,” he says. “We took the time to test and measure and see how this work from home went before we started inviting people here to watch the space. Make sure you can do this for the long term; otherwise, you will push people back [into the office].”

The first tenant of the caisse is Hyloqa digital marketing company from Dunedin that counts Achieva among its clients.

“I approached them and the timing was perfect,” says Oak. “They were looking for a new space. He adds with a laugh: “I don’t know if they like it, because now I can come in anytime I’m at Center Court and ask them about all the work they’re working on for us. ”

Courtesy. Paula Smith, General Manager of Commercial Services at Colliers International.

Colliers charges $19 per square foot for move-in ready office space. As of mid-February, two suites — one 1,576 square feet, the other 2,231 square feet — remained for rent. Parking is provided and furniture can also be part of the offer, at an additional cost, if required. Other Center Court amenities include a self-service canteen, dog park, spacious courtyard, conference room and a nearby bus stop. For security reasons, tenants must arrange their own internet and telephone service, but other utilities are included.

“These are full-service leases,” says Paula Smith, general manager of commercial services at Colliers International. “And the way we work with Achieva is very personal. We make sure to be on all the “rounds” with potential tenants.

Smith says it’s somewhat unusual for a company to rent space in its headquarters after being the sole occupant for the building’s entire existence. But with a good working relationship, the arrangement can be a boost for both landlord and tenant.

“It’s not a typical landlord-tenant situation,” she says. “They share the same space.”

This meant Hyloq signage had to be added to the exterior of the building, which is not typical of a corporate office lease. Additionally, Achieva instructed Colliers not to place a “for rent” sign outside of center court. “They didn’t want the community to think they were selling out or leaving,” Smith says.

Cost wasn’t a major factor thanks to the way Center Court is laid out – “basically they just moved a gate,” Smith says – but that won’t always be the case.

“More than anything, it depends on how the building is designed and operated,” she says. “In this case, Achieva is able to compartmentalize, with adequate security, certain suites which they can then rent out without any interference with their day-to-day activities or compromising private information.”

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