JLL Carolinas office market leader on how firm retooled its new space through the pandemic


Real Estate Editor, Charlotte Business Journal

At 7:15 a.m. Monday, JLL’s new Charlotte office in uptown officially opened for its 150-plus employees.

After more than a year of all-remote work for some, the local outfit of the Chicago-based commercial real estate firm is now in one space after previously being scattered across four offices.

Last February, JLL was on the verge of executing a lease and finalizing its design plans for a consolidated office at Legacy Union. Of course, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it was the right time to pause and reassess, said Chase Monroe, JLL Carolinas market director.

“We took what all of our needs were and put it into the space that we basically already designed,” Monroe said. “We overlaid the two and (said), ‘OK, what would we do differently? How are people going to use space differently?'”

JLL, one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the United States, has been conducting research about the workplace of a post-pandemic world. The Charlotte office was an opportunity to put some of that research — along with findings by Gensler, which worked on JLL Charlotte’s upfit — into practice.

JLL Carolinas’ primary office was previously at the Rotunda Building in SouthPark.

A lease for 41,000 square feet across nearly two floors at 650 South Tryon, the second office building at Lincoln Harris’ Legacy Union development, was finalized in June. Monroe said the firm took less space than it had planned to before the pandemic but it was a difference of only about 1,500 square feet.

What did change was the layout — social distancing between workspaces was put into place, and Monroe estimated about a 20% increase in collaborative, meeting or private spaces. He said there’s about 47 types of non-desk spaces, such as phone booths and conference rooms, or about one per 900 square feet.

Some open-area cubicle space was modified. Furniture is able to be moved and reconfigured.

JLL is pursuing LEED Gold and WELL Silver certifications for its Charlotte office. WELL, a system that measures a space’s wellness and health, has become increasingly popular through the pandemic.

Technology, screens and plug-ins are available in every space, Monroe said.

JLL sees flexibility in work arrangements for its employees in its future, much like other companies, but every Charlotte employee will have the option to use the space anytime, Monroe said. There are some roles and positions that likely won’t be in the office five days a week.

Monroe said JLL went through countless interviews and studies to ultimately land on the layout for the new uptown office. It’s hoped the space can serve as a case study for JLL clients, many of which are looking to reconfigure their own real estate for a post-pandemic world.

“We’ve had to rethink it all after putting it down on paper and going in one direction,” Monroe said. “We had to pull back and make sure all the things we put down were heading in the right direction.”

Although he wasn’t sure how many people came in to the new office on day one, Monroe said he saw several faces on Monday he hadn’t since March 16, 2020, when JLL closed its local offices because of the pandemic. Up to 40% of JLL’s local workforce has had to work completely remote since Covid-19, in part because there wasn’t real estate to accommodate them in the past year.

He said, so far, the energy has been over the top.

“Just about everybody was here between 7:15 and 8:00 to come into the new space and see folks and to be there,” Monroe said. “There’s a lot of excitement over the discovery of the different aspects of the space.”

Rodgers Builders was the general contractor on the upfit. JLL’s project and development services group oversaw the buildout.

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