As a group, we (Collab21) have been looking for property that we can feel good about moving into. There are a few basic parameters that we are trying to realize, or at least justify based on price, which is meant to be the right lobe of C21′s brain (or is it the left?). These are: cost effective heating solution, ability to expand, free to host events, bathroom(s), kitchen is a bonus, and power to run a server rack, 20 laptops, etc. Finally, as a bonus, we would be looking for 3-phase, or a bigger transformer into the building so that we can run high power equipment like arc welders and CNC machines.
So we’ve visited a few places. Most of which some of us approved. However, when it came down to charting these places against our “Matrix of Approval”, they fall short of what we expect. It’s not like we couldn’t get by with a couple things missing. After all, we are a bunch of creative DIYers, and we have collective experience in construction and whatnot.
For example, as we were trying to figure out how to fit in with an already established company which has a nice warehouse near the Bay Bridge, one member was against sharing their space. That member found another cost effective place near Civic Center which he wanted to check out. While he was taking pictures and talking to the real estate agent for the Civic Center place, the rest of us realized that the Bay Bridge place was not up to par. So we called the Bay Bridge landlord and told him the unfortunate news.
A couple of us went back to the Civic Center place and loved it. It has the capacity to let us expand, it had all of the power and Ethernet port outlets we needed, parking, amazing landlords, a trustworthy real estate agent, and the emotional back ground that all of us are used to when seeing something we like.
There was one problem: no heaters. The space is zoned as commercial, which usually means concrete floors, poor insulation, etc. Well, this is the definitely the case for this space. I tried to justify building a false floor and covering it with carpet or the waste of other hardwood floor jobs, and then building a false ceiling (to lower the cubed area to heat), then bringing in either space heaters, or installing registered heat…and then paying the cost of electricity or gas. Since there was only a 200A circuit in the building, it was hard to justify the fact that we needed a server rack, 40+ people with laptop or desktop computers in the building, some smaller prototyping equipment, and then heaters! There’s no way we would have survived on that little power. We would need to make some capital improvements to the property, in the form of more power, which we were sure the landlords would leave the work to us. This didn’t seem to be worth it in the long run for us, and would only benefit the landlords.
At our meeting the night after viewing this space, we explored all of the options we could think about in two hours, and we decided to let it go. “I’m sorry Mr. Real Estate Agent and great landlords, but we cannot consider your rental as feasible for our plans. Good luck in the future.”
And so the search continues…
As a note for those of you looking for commericial real estate: the prices are falling. They are starting to fall right now, just like residential started a couple years ago. Now is the time to start looking (not buying). Look and negotiate with these people. Prices will drop after every person they persue forming a lease with. Also, there are PLENTY of spaces available all over the city right now.
For your reference, we tried to prioritize our searching parameters:
2. Price per square foot
4. Building out options
5. Look and Feel
8. Parking and/or closeness to public transportation
9. Neighborhood and where can we order food from.