'Co-everything' and evolution in the property world

Co-working has been up and running in Belfast for the last few years

CO-living, co-working, co-retail . . . it seems everything is 'co' something or other in the property world today.

There's no denying there is change on the horizon for how we design, build, let and manage property.

Co-working has been up and running in Belfast for the last few years and has emerged alongside the growing trend set by the likes of We Work, who have recently dominated the occupier market across the globe and closer to home in Dublin.

Whilst the recent woes of We Work are well documented, local indigenous operators have appeared with great success in the Belfast market to cater for the growing demand of flexible, co-working office space with short flexible lease terms.

Operators have had to create space that can be cater to the fast-changing spatial requirements of their customers and match up with the expectations of a fast-growing start-up companies.

Where previously you'd have to undertake works to move phone lines and ducting through the office to facilitate changes in spatial requirement, high speed connectivity and the advent of cloud-based infrastructure has negated this requirement and facilitated this fast-moving concept.

While we don't expect the co-working phenomenon to overtake the traditional office model, we can see changes in how office fit outs are enabling hot-desking, quiet space and collaboration, all of which feature heavily in the co-working model.

For many of us the sound of co-living evokes memories of sharing a run-down student house with four of your friends. Times have changed considerably since then with purpose-built student accommodation topping the charts in terms of the construction sector in Northern Ireland in the last five years.

It's co-living of a different kind. Sharp, clean designs with hi-tech, smart buildings create the perfect environment for living and learning in the city centre. For students in Belfast, especially around the new university development, this standard of accommodation will soon become the norm.

It's only a matter of time before the "build-to-let" model that is currently taking Dublin by storm comes to Belfast and this will provide the next step on the co-living ladder for graduating students looking for similar standards of accommodation. Smaller apartment sizes with high end shared amenities, managed by international brands are leading the way in this model.

Co-retail is quite similar to co-working but instead of sharing office space, a shop is shared by different retailers with complimentary products. This provides the perfect environment for start-up businesses to operate alongside established brands with a similar customer base.

This is a concept that is yet to hit our shores but has found some traction in the likes New York and London. At the moment it's still more 5th Avenue than Royal Avenue.

Changes in the trends of how we work, live and play have been and will continue to shape the built environment around us.

With lots of major development work in the local pipeline, we're excited to see how Northern Ireland reacts to “co-everything”.

:: Declan Flynn is managing director of Belfast-based commercial property agency Lisney.

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