WeWork expansion offers glimpse of Portland’s changing business scene

WeWork's office space in Pioneer Place mall, Portland WeWork's office space in Pioneer Place mall, Portland

If there has been one obvious newcomer to Portland’s commercial office market this year, it’s WeWork, says Kevin Joshi, senior vice president and partner at real estate firm Kidder Mathews.

WeWork, a New-York based company that leases shared office space to individuals, start-ups and even large companies with more than 1,000 employees, is on a global expansion streak. It opened close to 100 offices in large cities all over the world in 2017.

In Portland, the company has found a natural home catering to gig economy workers, small creative firms and tech start-ups.

In February, WeWork moved into the entire top floor of the Pioneer Place mall in downtown Portland. It became the company's second location in the Rose City. It also leases three floors of office space in the Custom House building in the Pearl District.

WeWork is rumored to be close to inking a deal to lease an extra 50,000 square feet of space in the city’s downtown. WeWork did not respond to a request for comment.

“The company has just crushed it here,” said Joshi.

WeWork’s success builds on the changing nature of office work and the knowledge-based economy. The company’s open plan offices feature large living-room style spaces designed for workers to meet and share ideas.

It also hosts workshops, social events and thought-leader panels to help companies “nurture a strong team culture,” according to its website.

WeWork’s Pioneer Place mall space is an obvious location for the company, though it is an unusual tenant for the mall, which has traditionally leased space to retail businesses.

The mall’s top floor atrium provides a pleasant light, airy space. Workers are close to amenities, such as restaurants and public transit. The new foot traffic created by the new tenants is exactly what the mall needs as it struggles to attract people to its brick and mortar stores.

Will we all be working in WeWork style offices in the years to come?

The company’s business model is definitely catching on, but it was not the only firm to expand its commercial office space footprint this year.

Sports apparel company Adidas moved into nearly 80,000 of office space in Portland’s iconic Montgomery Park building this year. 

Higher education institutions are also expanding their presence in Portland. Both Oregon State and University of Oregon grew their office space in the city in 2017.

Small and medium spaces made up most of the Portland market’s leasing activity in the third quarter, according to Kidder Mathews research. WeWork is part of this market that is setting down roots here. Although traditional business sectors are also expanding, this new kid on the block will be one to watch.

Kim Moore

Kim Moore is the editor for Oregon Business magazine.

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