North Stamford’s High Ridge Road off Exit 35 on the Merritt Parkway is best known for its selection of restaurants, retail stores, banks and gyms; office space has not traditionally been the commercial real estate strongpoint for that section of the city.
However, Waterside Property Group is seeking to change that situation with the renovation and rebranding of 1177 High Ridge Road under the banner Office Suites One.
According to Jon Malkin, a partner in Waterside Property Group, the two-story, 20,000-square-foot building was constructed in the early 1980s for a single occupant, which he recalled as a “subsidiary of some large international company.”
When that tenant decided to move out of the U.S., the property owner retrofitted the building into individual offices and rebranded it as American Business Centers. But rather than pursue annual leases, the owner took a looser approach to tenancy with flexible short- and long-term leasing, making it one of the region’s earliest coworking environments.
Malkin and his partners in Waterside Property Group, Jeff Goldblum and Jim Lyman, purchased the building for $3.9 million last February.
“We saw that there was a huge need for coworking space. That was the trend moving forward,” Malkin said. “Obviously, Covid put a damper on that for a while when nobody was working. But we knew people were eventually going back to the office, but would not be signing long-term commercial leases — people wanted to have this flexible option.”
The building had not been renovated since its initial change in focus and there was much work to bring its infrastructure up to speed. Malkin and his partners also operate Stamford’s SWC Office Furniture, which enabled them to handle much of the building renovations without the expense of a third party.
“We upgraded it with carpeting, paint, furniture and lighting,” he said, adding that a brand new MERV 13 HVAC air filtration system, digital thermostats, a new fire system and full WiFi access were also installed.
“We’ve made it really comfortable for people to come in, bring their office goods and sit down into a fully furnished spot,” he added.
Goldblum pointed out that Waterside Property Group does not view its tenants as tenants.
“This is like a membership business,” he said. “We don’t call the people tenants — they’re members in a community. They can come one month and leave the next month. They have that flexibility, which is what they like, and we don’t even call it a lease. It’s a membership agreement that goes anywhere from month-to-month to 36 months, and people can go longer term.”
Goldblum said the building’s occupancy was at the mid-60% range when his company acquired the property in February and is now in the low 70% range, adding that “we have two or three in the hopper right now.”
The building’s 70 suites range from single-person offices to multisuite offices shared by professionals in a specific field.
Malkin pointed out that the building’s location away from Stamford’s downtown has been an advantage for marketing the property.
“There’s not much like it,” he said. “You have people who live up here who may not want to go all the way downtown. We sit right on High Ridge Road where you have a number of restaurants and retail —we’re in walking distance from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and we have Starbucks, dry cleaning, a liquor store. People come in, they park their cars, work and walk out to lunch.”
Malkin predicted more coworking spaces will take root in the suburban office markets, which is why his company branded the High Ridge Road property as Office Suites One.
“Our view is, let’s create a brand that’s separate and away from the specific piece of real estate so we can continue to potentially leverage what we have now into more spaces,” he said.