As workers head back to the desks and cubicles they abandoned last year due to the pandemic, one local commercial real estate services firm is settling into all-new office space designed to accommodate how – and where – people work.

The local office of Dallas-based CBRE moved this month into the top floor of the Oxbow building at 1803 Broadway St., consolidating three San Antonio offices and 90 employees into the new location.

The Oxbow is an eight-story office tower with garage parking beneath and is the latest development by Pearl developer Silver Ventures.

CBRE’s move was planned over a year ago at the height of the pandemic, when employers sent their workers home to stem the spread of COVID-19 and office vacancies began to soar.

“I think it’s a great case study where you start and look where your customers are, look where your employees are, look how they would like to work,” said Gardner Peavy, managing director of CBRE. “So much of working today has been analyzed in depth by our workplace team and it has a lot to do with collaboration and the experience that people have in their workplace.”

CBRE is a Fortune 500 real estate services and investment firm with more than 100,000 employees and clients around the world. Its for-rent office listings in San Antonio include Class-A++ space in the Frost Tower on Houston Street, ground floor space in a historic St. Paul Square building on East Commerce Street, and many other properties throughout the city.

Employees at CBRE are invited to move from desk to desk on any given day to familiarize themselves with other departments and teammates.
Employees at CBRE are invited to move from desk to desk on any given day to familiarize themselves with other departments and teammates. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

CBRE’s new San Antonio workspace, designed by an in-house team employing a company initiative focused on the future of office design, is furnished with a variety of desks, which can be adjusted for sitting or standing, with partitions between them.

 The floor plan offers both collaborative and private work areas, including “focus rooms” that staffers can reserve, conference rooms equipped with audio and video technology, and grouped seating areas, one of which offers a view of South Broadway and the Tower of the Americas.

In the entryway to the office is CBRE’s Rise Cafe, “which is really just a great place to be together, to present, to have meals,” Peavy said. A mural showcases San Antonio’s heritage, and work by local artists and historical photography of the Pearl line the walls.

A gallery wall curated by CBRE San Antonio employees focuses on local artists with familiar locations and symbols. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

CBRE is the leasing and marketing agent for Oxbow, now also home to the offices of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Sage Investments, and several small firms. Restaurateur Pete Selig is planning to open a cafe in a ground-level space. Credit Human has its new headquarters in the adjoining office building.

Office vacancies, in general, experienced historic increases during the pandemic as employers learned that workers can be productive at home. The return could be slow. Nationwide, vacancies are forecast to remain elevated at 16.5% through 2022, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

“Work from home is the most important question facing the future of commercial real estate coming out of COVID-19,” John Worth, executive vice president for research and investor outreach at the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, said May 7 at an NAR forum.

In San Antonio, the Pearl may offer an exception to that trend as more employers move to the area. Like the retail, food and beverage, and housing development that has sprung up near the Pearl, office space is also growing and fulfilling the “live, work, play” promise of downtown developers. Even a new coworking space has opened at the redeveloped former brewery.

“Obviously, Pearl is an iconic place to be for San Antonio [with] so many attributes that match up with our workplace goals and we’re excited to be here,” Peavy said. “Pearl has a number of amenities that are great offerings to our employees. They foster that collaboration even outside of the office space.”

And if the client wants a meeting, asking them to meet at the office or the Pearl is an easy “accept,” Peavy said, “because clients want to be here.”

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.