At a time when office vacancies are mounting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, San Diego developer and real estate investor Wolf Bielas is renovating a Carlsbad office building near Palomar Airport to include a co-working location.
Bielas, managing partner of Downtown Works in Little Italy, sees the pandemic as an opportunity to grow his company’s business on the theory that demand for coworking space will rise as people tire of working solely from home.
“People are getting used to working from home but they need a place to touch down. They need to have some kind of flexibility and that’s where we come along,” Bielas said. “This pandemic was kind of a cold shower to everybody that you need flexibility. The model of having flexibility, having ready-to-go offices is here to stay.”
Downtown Works and Downtown Works Carlsbad are owned by Performance Wealth Investments. The company is a partnership of four family offices, including Bielas’.
Bielas prefers to call the Downtown Works locations flexible office spaces because he said they are a mix of private offices and the open office layouts people might associate with coworking.
“We have been planning this for over a year, a year-and-a-half,” Bielas said. “We are a very risk adverse group. We gave it a lot of thought how to do it. We didn’t see a good reason with all the work we had done to stop it.”
When the pandemic hit, Bielas said the design of Downtown Works Carlsbad was modified to reflect pandemic protocols.
“A lot of changes were put in the Carlsbad location to kind of adjust to the new reality,” Bielas said.
They include upgrading air filtration systems plans and installing UV lights in the filtration system to kill harmful bacteria.
In Carlsbad and Little Italy, Downtown Works has installed UV-C LED lights and cold plasma generators to kill viruses, bacteria, mold in HVAC Systems, and multiple medical grade air purifiers.
People will be required to wear masks in common areas and a barista will be hired to staff the kitchen, replacing self-service features.
Touchless doors also were installed in restrooms and the seating capacity of meeting rooms has been reduced.
“We’re going to be doing a lot of outdoor amenities and outdoor working spaces that people can take advantage of,” Bielas said. “From the beginning, part of the plan for the pandemic is taking advantage of all the green space that we have. We have all this land.”
Room to Grow
Performance Wealth Investments bought the 4.9 acre Carlsbad property at 2011 Palomar Airport Road in February 2019 for $9.2 million and said he is spending $2 million renovating the office building on the site.
Downtown Works Carlsbad will have 30 fully-furnished private offices as well as coworking spaces and meeting rooms.
Initially, 11,000 square feet of the 45,000 square-foot building will be set aside for Downtown Works, Bielas said, with plans to expand if there is sufficient demand.
“We could expand pretty easily into 24,000 square feet,” Bielas said.
The rest of the building will be used for traditional tenants.
In addition to being a partner of Performance Wealth Investments with Downtown Works, Bielas is managing partner of Wolfpack Ventures, a San Diego company that invests in real estate, technology, and hospitality projects.
Performance Wealth Investments owns and operate about 15 buildings with about 450,000 square feet of offices and some industrial, Bielas said.
“One of the things that we saw a long time ago was that the office segment of real estate was a little bit broken,” he said.
By that, Bielas said the traditional model of tenants signing long-term leases was outdated for companies that need flexibility, especially during uncertain economic times.
“Nobody knows how their business will be in two years. In 10 years, it’s like (using) the magic ball to try to figure it out,” Bielas said. “We think in 10 years, 30 percent of the office portfolio will need to be flexible.”