Jon Cadieux has a message for everyone who says working in an office, instead of working from home, is a shrinking market because of the COVID-19 pandemic — pump the brakes.
Cadieux is the principal owner of NWA Workplaces, a shared office provider based in Bentonville. He said that in a post-pandemic environment, the co-working industry’s potential to grow has never been higher. Many real estate watchers say remote working is expected to grow, but many workers will still want a place to connect with others in person.
If small- to mid-size businesses without the financial resources scrap the idea of having a physical location altogether, co-working and community spaces are uniquely positioned to fill the void. That’s in addition to freelancers and other self-employed professionals who need space to operate.
Cadieux is in the process of doubling down on that bet.
NWA Workplaces is expanding with a second location in Bentonville. In July, a limited liability company led by Cadieux, his wife Stacy, and commercial real estate executive Paul Esterer paid $725,000 for a building at 3604 N.W. Frontage Road, near the North Walton Boulevard/Interstate 49 interchange.
Once it’s remodeled, the building will have approximately 4,000 square feet of office, meeting room and co-working space, with room for expansion up to 9,000 square feet. Cadieux said he anticipates having the building ready for memberships no later than Nov. 1.
The Wishing Springs property also has a warehouse and a mixed-use space that will host food and beverage businesses and other outdoor recreational areas. A couple of local tenants have already signed leases with Wishing Springs LLC and moved into the warehouse: Buddy Pegs, which hosts children’s bicycle and safety classes, clubs and camps; and Timbernak, a custom cabinet and furniture builder for home and office clients.
Cadieux started NWA Workplaces five years ago. He leases about 2,700 square feet at 900 S.E. Fifth St.
“I had a digital marketing company, and all I wanted was a free office,” he recalled. “I was going to have other people pay the overhead, and I didn’t care if I made any money.”
Two years into the venture, Cadieux realized he was focusing on the wrong business. Although he declined to provide any revenue figures, he said NWA Workplaces — launched initially as Bentonville Workplaces — has been profitable from the first day it opened. He eventually sold the digital marketing company to focus strictly on growing and operating NWA Workplaces.
Cadieux offers memberships, not leases. He said the company’s clients include Fortune 50 companies, CPG vendors, consulting firms, nonprofit organizations, attorneys and numerous other professionals.
Flexible options are available for private offices, meeting rooms, a day office and virtual offices. NWA Workplaces also provides vital business services and amenities with its memberships, including high-speed Wi-Fi internet, furnished offices, parking, secured bike racks, cleaning and maintenance.
Cadieux said a couple of customers forfeited their offices on Fifth Street when the pandemic arrived, but new customers filled those spaces within a couple of weeks.
Many employers are still keeping the bulk of their employees working from home to control the virus’ spread. That includes Walmart Inc., which is keeping its corporate workforce remote until at least Feb. 1 next year.
Cadieux, who moved to Northwest Arkansas from California a decade ago, said working from home has caused people to realize that having a workspace they can go to that isn’t in their home is essential.
“It seems like the demand has gone up,” he said. “People are looking for an alternative to getting out of their house. I’ve had Walmart employees pay out of their own pockets [for workspace] because they don’t like working from home.”
Cadieux said the Wishing Springs property is reviewing food and beverage options to augment its park-like open space. He said a healthy community space could provide what traditional offices can’t in terms of a tight-knit support network, even after the pandemic diminishes.
CO-WORKING AS AMENITY
Before the pandemic, co-working spaces were the fastest-growing type of office space in commercial real estate. According to real estate company JLL, while co-working spaces currently comprise less than 5% of the market, they’re expected to make up 30% by 2030.
Developers are picking up on the trend as an added amenity for their projects. Chris Wyrick took that approach when he had the idea for Equity Storage, a 465-unit self-storage facility off Interstate 49 in Rogers. The facility opened in mid-August, and in addition to being 100% climate-controlled, Equity Storage has a 16,000-square-foot business center. It features a lounge, large conference room, six fully-furnished offices and other “library-style” work stations. All of it is available to lease with flexible terms.
“Having space where homeowners, business owners and vendors can conduct business within the same space they store products and belongings is a service that should be available in our community,” Wyrick said.