Child Care: The Unsung and Undersupplied Amenity

welcome children.jpg

It seems like nowadays the entire DMV shuts down (no pun intended) with even the mention of inclement winter weather conditions. Note that I did not say “snow” because Fairfax County Public Schools has cancelled classes for what amounted to rain on a cold day (when I was growing up it seemed like there would need to be at least 6 inches of snow before we even got a 2-hour delay). This presents many parents with considerable hardship as they must quickly arrange for child care or be forced to stay home and use paid time off.

In such times, the presence of a child care facility in your office building or in close proximity is a highly desirable amenity. Unfortunately, many landlords do not see it this way and are either unwilling or unable to accommodate the need. Here are 3 reasons for the lack of child care facilities within most office buildings/markets:

  1. Image – Many landlords will not even consider leasing space in their office buildings to a tenant who business involves children or child care. One reason is that they feel such a tenant/use would be inconsistent with the professional nature of the building; detracting from its reputation and negatively affecting its ability to attract other tenants. This concern is not entirely unfounded but, in my opinion, this outdated perception can be turned from a negative into a positive through effective marketing which presents the use as an amenity for other building tenants.
  2. Common Area Wear and Tear – Along the same lines is the potentially, adverse impact the use could have on the common areas of the building. There are a number of uses generally seen as undesirable for this reason including testing centers, medical, etc. The common element is the high number of visitors which results in increased wear and tear on the common areas. Coupled with the fact that they do not work in the building on a daily basis can contribute to such visitors being less than considerate in their use of such common areas, bathrooms receiving a disproportionate share of the abuse. Building tenants suffer and, as a result, landlords face the possibility of high tenant turnover, difficulties leasing space, and increased operating expenses and/or capital expenditures.
  3. State and Local Codes – Perhaps the largest reason for the dearth of child care amenities in established office markets is the myriad of regulations and requirements governing the operation of such facilities/businesses set forth by state and local officials. Any use involving children undergoes intense scrutiny and code requirements vary based on number of children, age, etc. Zoning is not as much of an issue as are regulations requiring the presence of outdoor facilities. Many office buildings do not have excess or suitable outdoor space for a play area; an issue that is increasingly prevalent in more urban office environments.

In my opinion, this presents a significant opportunity for landlords to differentiate themselves in our competitive marketplace by supplying an unmet demand. Shrewd and forward-thinking would be wise to examine ways to accommodate child care uses by modifying existing common areas and/or parking lots to create required outdoor facilities. The lack of options for daycare tenants could present landlords with the opportunity to unload space(s) in their buildings that have been historically difficult to lease such as lower level space and/or first floor spaces with poor visibility and/or undesirable views.

The result would be a building that is attractive to both companies and individuals. Landlords could market the child care facility as an amenity; allowing companies to remain productive despite school closings by providing their employees with an “in-house” solution. Employees would enjoy the benefit of increased time with their children and decreased time in traffic by eliminating an additional stop on the way to work in rush hour traffic.

What are your thoughts? Is there a daycare in your building? Do you wish there were? Let me know by commenting below or by email me at Ryan@RealMarkets.com

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