After a year of making the best of a kitchen corner or pushing aside bikes and tools to set up a laptop and backdrop in the garage, thousands of professionals are eager to get back to a plush office with all the accoutrements meant for conducting business.
In The Bahamas, there is just one more hurdle before the pre-pandemic office world resumes. It’s a shortage of space.
“For a long time, we have known that the inventory for commercial Prime A office space has been scarce,” explains Hartman Longley, Deputy Chairman of the Bahamas Real Estate Association and Managing Director of Leno Realty Ltd. “We can cite stories of owners of buildings who had to move their own offices to lesser buildings to make way for those begging to pay the higher price because ideal office space is so limited.”
That lack of inventory is part of the reason that the broad-based financial services firm Leno went big when it decided to build its own headquarters.
“We looked around, even when we were leasing, and to get the kind of space we needed, we ended up in a new building but it was a trade-off,” Longley says. “To satisfy our requirement for interior square footage, we wound up on the second floor of a building with a gated security door on the first floor, concrete steps to our offices and an address that was more industrial than professional.”
Fast forward five years and Leno was ready to build.
“We could have chosen to go small, enough to satisfy our current needs with some room for expansion in the next decade, or to seize the opportunity to put our money where the need is and create something outstanding,” says Leno founder & CEO Sean K Longley. “We chose to do exactly that, create a corporate centre that would be outstanding in every way, architecturally making a statement, with strong lines and floor to ceiling storm-rated doors and windows. We wanted it to offer a panoramic view of New Providence, the harbour and the sea. We wanted to include a space for art in a reception area giving Bahamian artists a chance to show their talent. We wanted sufficient parking. And above all, we wanted to build it as sustainably as possible.”
That 5-storey corporate centre is more than half complete now, rising on the hilltop of Collins Avenue at 5th Terrace. Hartman Longley said interest is high with numerous potential tenants in discussions for the two remaining floors.
“Caves just built two, 3-storey towers and everything is 100% leased. Sandyport small office space is hot, Goodman’s Bay Corporate Centre remains 100% full, Campbell Shipping, MANX same thing, new spaces just outside Lyford Cay are completely occupied and only one space along Montagu is available at this time,” Longley says. “Both of the new buildings in Sterling Commons on Paradise Island are 100% taken.”
Longley said the irony is that focus has been on luxury residential.
“The Bahamas has caught the attention of international press for one of the hottest luxury markets in the world, driven by high net worth individuals seeking safety and security in the midst of the pandemic,” says Longley. “But the real need right now is for top notch, world class commercial space especially as people trade in their sweatpants for those pants that have been hanging in the closet for a while and get out of the kitchen corner and back into a place created for making wages not waffles is waiting.”