As a glossy new Spaces centre opens in California’s wine-rich Napa Valley, its landlord looks back on his choice to diversify into the world of flexible workspaces
Todd Zapolski has been in real estate around California’s Bay Area and Napa Valley for more than 20 years, but he’s a relative newcomer to the flexspace industry. During that time, he’s watched the Napa area evolve into a destination in its own right that’s rich with wineries and local businesses – an evolution continued with the opening of his mixed-use development, First Street Napa, in 2017.
Located in trendy Downtown Napa, First Street was always designed to have a rich, complementary selection of retail outlets, restaurants and a boutique hotel, The Archer, that would reflect the local culture, style and retailers. But partway through developing it, Zapolski hit upon the idea of including office space.
Around 2015, Zapolski decided to reimagine the second floor – previously a department store – as a variety of workspaces, including a 4,000sq ft coworking venue. Sitting alongside homegrown boutiques, restaurants and a rooftop bar, he felt that flexible workspace would inject “a different energy” into the property. “We had heard that having flexspace would drive traffic into our retailers and restaurants,” says Zapolski. From the start, Spaces seemed like the right fit.
“Tommy Miller of Trademark Property Company had worked with IWG and Spaces elsewhere in the country, and was the advocate for adding coworking space to our mix. He connected our project with IWG,” explains Zapolski. “We were looking at coworking space, and there are very few players who have that kind of longevity. The ability to have this range of flexibility on usage – with clients being able to book space from an hour to a day to a month – made sense for the sort of customer we felt would use it.”
When the pandemic hit and slowed plans for the space to open, Zapolski knew he had made the right choice. “With IWG having a network in countries all over the world, it could see how this crisis was affecting businesses all over the world, and how they were responding.” Similarly, he was impressed by IWG’s knowledge of where working trends are going globally, drawn from decades of experience; a depth of knowledge that took any guesswork out of the design and facilities chosen for the space. It felt like a safe bet.
Spaces Napa Valley opened on 1 March 2021, with private workspaces, 24/7 access, and meeting rooms, as well as the option of a virtual office for users. The high-design space uses recycled materials, in a nod to California’s eco-heritage, and provides adjustable furniture to adapt to different working scenarios: private projects, collaboration sessions or networking.
In the first month alone, Zapolski has witnessed the shift to hybrid working first hand. “There are a lot of what I call ‘half-backs’,” he says. “People who realise they don’t need to be in the office the whole time, who have worked from home and thought it was pretty cool, but now want to get into an office environment, with some flexibility.” For the vast number of people with homes in the Napa area who work in San Francisco or Silicon Valley, this flexspace is having a huge impact on their work-life balance.
“A lot of folk have weekend or summer homes here, so it’s allowing them to now spend more time here,” says Zapolski. “They can come in on a Thursday, work from Spaces for the Friday, and then spend weekends at their place out here.”
As well as locals, he says, flexspace also suits the wine industry professionals who pass through the area – not just winemakers themselves, but label designers, marketeers and media.
For his company, Zapolski Real Estate, flexspace has really added value, and not just to the First Street development but to its wider portfolio. “It’s great, because we have the ability to experience the growth of this type of space in real time, and hopefully work with Spaces on other properties around the country,” he explains. Next, he hopes to make the First Street development a truly 24/7 experience – adding a second hotel by 2023, as well as around 170 residences.
Though it was early days for hybrid working when Zapolski first signed the deal with Spaces, he can already see that it’s a strong investment, as working trends in the US and beyond move away from traditional urban business centres and towards more local workspaces. “The more we get into it, the more we think it’s ideal,” he says. “We’re doing something that’s helpful to people now and, as we move out of this health crisis, it’s even clearer that it’s a smart use of space. I highly recommend others to consider it as a complementary part of their mixed-use space.”
Flexible workspace is the fastest-growing sector of the global workplace market. Make the most of this exciting investment opportunity by partnering with IWG today