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One of Premier’s shared space locations in Washington, DC

One of Premier’s shared space locations in Washington, DC

As the coworking sector faces headwinds amid shifting office trends, one local shared space firm is going against the grain.
 
Irvine-based Premier Workspaces is planning on capitalizing on the larger industry contraction seen in the wake of the pandemic, with goals to add 100 new locations in the next few years.

 
That goal, if met, would more than double the firm’s existing portfolio.

 
Premier, previously known as Premier Business Centers, counts 90 locations in the U.S., totaling about 1.6 million square feet. In Orange County, it has long been the largest shared space operator with nearly 460,000 square feet here now.

 
The past two years it competed with New York’s WeWork for the top spot among OC’s cluster of shared space operators, in terms of overall square footage.


That’s changed as the pandemic and internal struggles forced WeWork into some notable givebacks of area spaces over the past year or so.

 
“The pandemic was a difficult time for many operators who had to close, sell or reconfigure space to meet that need,” said Chief Executive Jeff Reinstein, whose firm’s ambitious expansion plans earned him a spot on the 28th edition of the Business Journal’s OC 50, which this week focuses on executives shaping the future of OC’s economy (see Special Report, starting on page 29).


“While the pandemic was difficult, the coming months are an exciting time for us as we’re positioned to acquire and reposition some of these locations.”

Pandemic Impact


COVID largely upended the business mo
del for much of the nascent coworking industry, which for many operators hinges on collaboration, communal desks and shared office spaces.

“The pandemic underscored the importance of physical separation,” said Reinstein, whose firm traditionally has offered users their own dedicated offices.

 
Premier’s expansion plans come while the overall shared space market is largely in contraction.

 
The sector had nearly tripled in size in Orange County over the past three years to some 3 million square feet of leased space.


Several hundred thousand square feet of that space has been given back to landlords over the past year or so, as the industry has fought to keep its members who’ve opted to work from home. Safety precautions have also kept many locations shuttered, or operating at a limited capacity.


Premier officials say they will target those givebacks as a source of future growth, as well as new partnerships and leases.

 
It’s already done this over the past few years, through a partnership struck up recently with the area’s largest landlord, Newport Beach’s Irvine Co.


After a now-defunct coworking operator defaulted on its master lease a few years ago, Premier took over 200,000 square feet of space across six Irvine Co. offices in Southern California, including several in Irvine and Newport Beach.

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Premier said it managed to retain nearly all of the existing clients, reduce operational expenses and increase revenue by adding product lines and client negotiations, which led to the company converting each location to master leases prior to the one-year mark.

Track Record 


Premier is no stranger to market uncertainty.

 
Its strategy of today is not unlike the company’s startup nearly 20 years ago, when it acquired American Office Centers out of bankruptcy.

 
Ever since, Premier has yet to see an unprofitable year, nor has it defaulted on a lease, it says.

 
The company was somewhat prepared for the pandemic, with its offices including a mix of private offices and common areas rather than the prevalent coworking model of the past few years, which emphasized large, open spaces.


“We always believed in our model, but the pandemic showed its strength. Ultimately, it’s the reason our doors are still open after 19 years, the pandemic, and the financial crises,” Reinstein said.


Last year, the firm added five new shared office spaces, including a new type of offering—a location within an upscale apartment building in Woodland Hills.

 
The space, branded as Q Work, is a 6,000-square-foot workspace within the 241-unit the Q Variel apartment complex, which was developed by Canoga Park-based California Home Builders and opened this year.


The company said it is exploring similar residential spots going forward.


Bascom Backer


Premier’s future growth will be aided by its longstanding financial backer: Irvine-based apartment owner and real estate investor Bascom Group.

 
David Kim, managing partner at Bascom, said in a statement that his company is “excited about the opportunity in the coworking space today and our turnaround experience is a natural fit with the distress in the industry.”


“Premier is a company that’s always funded its own growth without taking on debt or raising capital from investors. We’re proud of our history and we’re excited to expand to new markets across the country,” Reinstein said.

 
This includes a continued emphasis on OC, where it counts some 20 locations.


“We’re committed to Orange County and the spaces we provide.”

 

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