Hamilton has enough empty office space for 4,000 workers

  • Hamilton: More than 600,000 square feet of vacant office space is available (Photo by Mark Tatem)

    Hamilton: More than 600,000 square feet of vacant office space is available (Photo by Mark Tatem)

  • Rego Sotheby's EVP Penny MacIntyre

    Rego Sotheby's EVP Penny MacIntyre

  • Coldwell Banker's commercial team: Pictured (from left)are Graham Smith, Brian Madeiros, Jack Kripl, Scott Powell and Tab Froud. 

    Coldwell Banker's commercial team: Pictured (from left)are Graham Smith, Brian Madeiros, Jack Kripl, Scott Powell and Tab Froud. 

The City of Hamilton has more than 600,000 square feet of empty office space that could accommodate up to 4,000 city workers.

That’s according to local real-estate agency Coldwell Banker, which has a five-person team specialising in commercial rentals and sales.

The company says sales inventory has increased “exponentially” over the last five years. Today, the company has $52.9 million worth of commercial inventory for sale.

According to Rego Sotheby’s executive vice-president Penny MacIntyre, the office space available could be up to 50 percent greater than advertised.

“The vacant office space is deceptively higher, given the empty space still under lease by various companies,” Ms MacIntyre said. “This space is typically referred to as ‘phantom space’ in Bermuda, not actively tracked. Likely another 300,000 sq ft of phantom space exists.”

Coldwell has also seen office rents come down by around 30 percent with prospective tenants now able to find space in the low $70s per square foot, averaged out over the year, due to rent-free periods offered by landlords. This pricing puts Bermuda well outside the top 30 most expensive cities in the world for commercial rentals.

Rego Sotheby’s sees office space ranging from $72 to $85 per square foot, depending on quality and not including service charges, while ‘class B’ space is going for between $30 and $45 per square foot.

Landlords are having to be more flexible to attract tenants.

“Asking rental rates have started to come down as landlords look to draw interest and are more so willing now to negotiate concessions such as free rent, tenant improvement allowances, landlord improvements, flexible lease terms and in some instances, early termination options to get deals done,” Ms MacIntyre said.

The silver lining in this story, says Coldwell, is that the cost of local office space is now extremely competitive with other high-profile jurisdictions.

According to CBRE Research, a global commercial real-estate research company, occupying office space in the West End of London costs $220 per square foot, the second most costly in the world behind Hong Kong at $248 per square foot.

Bermuda is less expensive than Geneva and Zurich, which run at $99 and $96 per square foot, respectively, as well as midtown Manhattan at $114. The Island is now on par with San Francisco and downtown Toronto both averaging $71.

“There are a number of excellent opportunities and tangible benefits for businesses that may wish to establish a presence in Bermuda,” said a Coldwell spokesperson, adding that the inventory spans the full spectrum of office classes and locations. “The City of Hamilton can quite easily accommodate new business, immediately. We do not have to wait to develop our infrastructure to cater to new demand, it already exists.”

The company said it has begun to see the reactivation of smaller international companies in Bermuda that had been near-dormant with either no presence here or one employee on the ground.

Near-dormant captive reinsurer Equator Re, which has been domiciled in Bermuda since 1984, recently decided to ramp up business, moving personnel to the Island and occupying some of the available office.

“Their re-emergence gives some encouragement,” said Coldwell. “Otherwise demand is for larger and upgraded space being sought from international companies already domiciled here. The bulk of new tenancies in the newer buildings now occupied at levels of 75 percent or more are from these companies.”

According to Coldwell, their listing website, www.bermudacommercial.com, boasts an estimated 90 percent of the commercial rental inventory available in Bermuda with 162 spaces listed as available to the market.

With the significant decrease in rental prices, it’s a renter’s market says Coldwell.

“Although this has been painful for landlords and lending institutions, creativity with respect to the negotiating process has resulted in some amazing opportunities for tenants; opportunities they have not seen for years,” said the company.

The real-estate agent also appears to be stepping in the ring alongside the international business community calling for change in order to attract new business to the Island.

“As an international business jurisdiction, we should continually compare our goods and services produced to those produced by our competitors so that we ensure we remain competitive,” said Coldwell. “If a tangible cultural shift occurs and we create a new framework within which we can attract more international business to the island in a substantial way, our economy will grow. What message do we have for our global market?”

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Published Sep 28, 2012 at 6:00 am (Updated Sep 27, 2012 at 7:01 pm)

Hamilton has enough empty office space for 4,000 workers

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