By Melody Simmons
A bank of new Peloton bikes will soon line a workout room in a Columbia office tower — and if tenants don’t want to exercise, they could always take a sushi rolling class.
The trendy workout equipment will be the main draw in a 6,000-square-foot lobby and common space in Columbia Gateway as a 106,000-square-foot building that first opened in 1998 is being redesigned and remade for the future.
It will offer a lobby that has a cafeteria flanked by large and small meeting areas with sofas and comfy chairs, a nitro coffee station and a large gourmet kitchen.
“We want a cutting edge experience,” said Bill Barroll, a senior vice president at Corporate Office Properties Trust, owner of the building at 6950 Columbia Gateway Dr.
Barroll heads a team overseeing the conversion of a portfolio of COPT-owned buildings into modern, amenity-driven spaces for a younger workforce.
The aim is to change a total of 201,000 square feet of aged office space in the Howard County submarket into new digs. The efforts are part of a trend — especially in downtown Baltimore’s central business district — to transform older buildings with a new vibe, palate of colors and large, airy open space.
The 12-bike Peloton studio will be installed on the ground level of the four-story building. It is being gutted and remade for a new stable of tenants and expected to be completed by early summer.
The original anchor, Magellan Health Services, has moved to new office space in another COPT building.
The new concept will hold 13.5-foot floor-to-ceiling space. Workers will be able to convert a conference table into a ping pong board to play a pick-up game. Cell phone charging stations and smart boards will be everywhere, and a 75-foot television screen will add a visual edge.
“It aims to have an Apple store asethetic with a mid-century modern vibe,” said Paul Adkins, COO of COPT, adding the changes are expected to reap “double-digit returns” for the REIT.
The upgrades have worked well for Sealing Technologies. The 20-employee tech company leases space at COPT’s office building at 7134 Columbia Gateway Dr. that opened in 1990 and was updated in 2016.
“It’s been a huge driver for us recruiting wise,” said Tracy Tippie, Sealing’s human resources chief. “We’ve got potential applicants who come out and are super impressed. We’ve just renewed our lease.”
Competition for commercial leasing is driving the need for the investments in such upgrades, says Krysta Herring, director of asset management and leasing at COPT.
At another COPT-owned building at 7142 Columbia Gateway Dr., the nondescript exterior defies the transformation of the interior.
Lime green seating decorates a sitting area, a large open kitchen awaits hungry employees and a personal concierge is at the ready to help line up concert tickets, dry cleaning or even set up a sushi rolling class.
Herring said COPT offers two or three-year short-term leases, which is also another plus for start-up companies with millennial employees.
“We believe that for the long-term, this is the office of the future,” she said.