Public Square

Working from home has long been common.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the concept in a noteworthy manner — such that developers of apartment and condominium buildings are incorporating office spaces into their buildings and even within units of those structures.

Gina Emmanuel, a principal with Nashville-based Centric Architecture, says that almost all the multi-unit residential buildings with which the company is involved will offer units featuring both small working nooks suitable for one person (including a desk area and door that can be closed to limit interruptions) and small individual offices within the units.

“In addition, we have several residential projects that have a co-working space both as a part of the amenity area and small leasable offices for both residents and those that do not live within the building,” Emmanuel says. “These have been wildly popular and often can share amenities such as fitness, pool, roof decks and access to community outdoor space that may not be available in a more typical office environment.”

Shawn Bailes, founder of FBMC Investments and president and CEO of Capital City Construction, says that with Nashville housing prices soaring, “smaller and more flexible spaces are in demand now more than ever.”

Bailes developed the Wedgewood-Houston site home to rental complex 83 Freight.

“The units offer extremely flexible spaces,” Bailes says. “The studio units at 320 square feet have Murphy Beds, allowing residents to work during the day and stretch out at night.”  

Many live-work space units tend to be “smallish” and, as such, often command greater prices per square foot than larger spaces.  

“With regards to the smaller space phenomena, I have referred to it as the ‘half-loaf-of-bread’ theory,” Bailes said. “Grocery stores now offer a half loaf of bread; however, the price is not half [that] of a full loaf of bread. It is up to 75 percent of the price. We incorporated this theory by offering smaller office spaces in our West Grove mixed-use building (near 12South), as well as our studio residential units at 83 Freight.  There is a market that doesn’t need a lot of space and is willing to pay a ‘higher than a slice price’ to have space that fits their needs so well.”

Sunnymeade Commons, a 28-townhome Inglewood project pictured above, has been designed to emphasize live-work theme options.

Clay Haynes, principal and owner of Public Square (which is partnering with Open Works on the East Nashville project) said the living spaces have been designed intentionally to consider the “new work-from-home environment.” For example — and given working from home generates greater electricity consumption than otherwise — the Sunnymeade units will exceed the required energy code standards.

Centric’s Emmanuel said many design features related to the live-work concept were being undertaken by architects and developers pre-pandemic and have proven to be doubly beneficial as the past 18 months have unfolded.

“The entities we partner with have noted for quite some time that they wish to have their communities provide the ability for a flexible lifestyle — whether it be working at home full time or having the convenience to be home for a few hours when needed,” she said. “The pandemic has just reinforced how valuable this can be.”

My position with Nashville Post has evolved since 2000 when I began work with the now-defunct The City Paper. TCP became a Post sister pub in 2008 (when I began some Post work) and folded in 2013. I have worked mainly with the Post since late 2011.

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