Creating work space ‘on demand’

/ The Edge Property
December 25, 2016 9:00 AM SGT
On Dec 12, OUE announced that its partner for a 20,100 sq ft coworking space on the fourth floor of Downtown Gallery is The Work Project, founded by its managing director, Junny Lee. South Korea-born, US-educated Lee, who became a Singapore citizen four years ago, aims to transform workspace for the future knowledge worker. “We call it office 2.0,” he says.
He knew he was on the right track in coming up with a concept for bespoke coworking space when he read a CBRE report published in October that 71% of millennials were willing to give up other benefits for a better work environment. The global survey involved 13,000 participants aged from 22 to 29, and was conducted from October 2015. It examined how they work, live and play.
Lee (right) with OUE’s Patrina Tan. He founded The Work Project to transform workspace for the future knowledge worker.
patrina tan junny lee
The Work Project at Downtown Gallery will be designed by Australian architectural firm Hassell and feature a vertical garden by its inventor, French botanist Patrick Blanc. Lee says he is working with Acoustic Couture to design focus music customised for different spaces and tasks.
He is also working with a scent expert to concoct a sensory experience to boost productivity and well-being. “We work with experts in all these areas, from design to smells and acoustics,” he adds. All in, Lee reckons he will be investing “in excess of $4 million” in The Work Project in Singapore.
Flexible, customised plans
Taking a leaf from the reservation system in the hotel industry, Lee is also creating an online booking system for workspaces and meeting rooms that people can book hourly or daily. People will also be able to customise their space use according to their work habits, for instance, if they want to be in the zone for collaborative work for only half a day, and to be in a private office in the afternoon for work that requires concentration. “This will allow greater work flexibility,” says Lee. “It will revolutionise the office space because all our workspaces are completely on demand.”
To him, the most important thing is to offer value for money. He used his own company as an example. Currently, it has seven staff housed in a rented office space at Phoenix Park office campus on Tanglin Road, where the rent is lower than that of the average CBD office space. But moving his staff into The Work Project at Downtown Gallery next year will mean 30% less in monthly outgoings compared to being at Phoenix Park, he estimates.
“Sharing a space not only makes your employees more productive and flexible, but also saves you money,” adds Lee. “You don’t need your own receptionist, or set aside a space for the pantry or hire a tea lady. You don’t need to have someone look after IT or the office equipment.”
Artist’s impression of the communal workspace at The Work Project
Artist’s impression of the communal workspace at The Work Project
Future lifestyle mall
While Lee was looking for a suitable location for The Work Project in Singapore, OUE was also seeking a coworking operator for the Downtown Gallery. “The challenges faced by existing bricks-and-mortar malls have become obvious in recent years,” says Patrina Tan, OUE senior vice-president of retail marketing and leasing. “Creating another cookie-cutter mall is not going to be sustainable.”
OUE therefore turned to futurist and trendspotter Faith Popcorn, founder and CEO of marketing and consulting firm BrainReserve.
Over the course of six months and in consultation with Popcorn as well as a panel of experts from the US and Asia, OUE sought to reimagine and redefine its lifestyle mall at Downtown Gallery. It focused on three key trends — luxury, bespoke living and wellness — which formed the building blocks for the new mall.
“We want Downtown Gallery to be a place for building communities of like-minded people — future leaders, fitness enthusiasts and chef wannabes,” says Tan. There will be communal facilities such as a social kitchen, where people can cook and eat together with their friends. There will also be a preschool, a farmers’ market by The Providore, eight boutique gyms and a wide array of F&B outlets. The focus will be on engaging consumers and community building activities, she adds.
The partnership with The Work Project is in line with OUE’s vision and ethos for Downtown Gallery, according to Tan. As part of the OUE Downtown mixed-use development, Downtown Gallery will have a 262m long frontage along Shenton Way, with two towers containing pre mium office space and 268 serviced residences operated by Oakwood Asia Pacific under the Oakwood Premier brand.
Artist’s impression of The Work Project, which has designed spaces and modules to suit members’ needs
Artist’s impression of The Work Project, which has designed spaces and modules to suit members’ needs
Members at The Work Project will therefore be able to enjoy all the amenities within the mixed development. Lee also intends to promote cross-benefits with other tenants at Downtown Gallery, for instance the gyms, restaurants, spas and wellness centres.
Within The Work Project, there will also be an event space which Lee says is “vital” to creating the ecosystem within the centre. He reckons that the space can accommodate about 350 members.
A third site in Los Angeles
Lee’s first coworking centre is located within Midtown Soundwill Plaza, a mixed-use development in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. The Work Project in Hong Kong opened in September.
With The Work Project at Downtown Gallery scheduled to open in the middle of 2017, he is already thinking about a third location — in Los Angeles, the US.
“It makes sense because we have properties and businesses in Los Angeles,” says Lee. His father’s company, Magilink US, invests in both technology and real estate. Most of its real estate investments and develop ments are in the US, and include redevelop ment and repositioning of shopping malls, suburban strip malls, office buildings and business hotels.
This article appeared in The Edge Property Pullout, Issue 760 (Dec 26, 2016) of The Edge Singapore.