Christopher Jerjian, owner of Ibis Plaza on Quakerbridge Road in Hamilton, has seen a gap in the commercial real estate market and is building offices that are just the right size to fit in.
“Right now if you’re a small business, you only have certain options,” Jerjian says. “You have the ability to go to an executive office, where you get one-room offices where they have a shared secretary and receptionist and conference rooms and the ability to use photocopiers and printers. These serve a very good purpose,” he says.
But that good service often comes at a high cost. Such full-service office suites make sure that tenants pay for photocopies, printing, Internet use, and many other overhead costs that can quickly escalate if business ramps up. And forget about bringing your own photocopier or printer to keep costs down.
More business means more usage, and more cost, to the point that could damage a small business’s bottom line. “It can get quite expensive,” he says. However, these suites offer short-term leases that appeal to startup owners who fear commitment.
On the other end of the scale are traditional commercial real estate spaces in large office buildings. But typically, these involve a three-year lease and at least 1,000 square feet of office space. These spaces can be too much for a one or two-person operation.
Jerjian sees the need for something in between those two concepts, and that’s where Ibis Plaza Express Offices comes in. Jerjian is currently overhauling one of the Ibis Plaza office buildings into a space that is designed to appeal to small companies and startups that need flexibility at a low cost, giving small business operators a better option than setting up shop in their basements.
“If you’re in a house, or a sublet, or a converted basement, you don’t have your own image and independence,” says Jerjian, who is the founder of Ibis, and owner of the office complex since 1982. “We were getting inquiries we just couldn’t fulfill.”
And where there is an unmet need, there is a business opportunity. The new Ibis Executive Suites now under construction bridges the gap by offering companies flexible office space as small as 400 square feet. Tenants can rent furniture cheap, or bring their own. There is a kitchen, bathrooms, and a shared conference room, but the fee for using it is nominal.
“What we offer is a professional atmosphere and a building with good finishes. We give small businesses the ability to keep their costs down. That’s our target market, and to my knowledge, nobody in this area has actually got that.”
Jerjian hopes the design of the Ibis plaza, technically a class-B space, will appeal to those thrifty small business tenants who want flexible terms but who don’t want the escalating costs of executive suites. Ibis is offering monthly leases, but Jerjian expects most clients will sign a one-year lease. That’s a lease without a lot of extras tacked on. There are no pass-through utility costs, just a fee for Internet service. Jerjian expects most rents to come out to about $847 a month.
The project is being built in phases, with the first phase comprising the inner core of the 26,000-square-foot plan. Although those core offices are on the inside, they all have natural light provided by skylights, one advantage of being in a one-story building. “You won’t feel like you’re in a dungeon like you would with some other interior office spaces,” he says. The Express Offices are scheduled to open in January.
Meanwhile, the company recently announced that one of its tenants, Global Planners Inc., has doubled its square footage at Ibis Plaza, renewed its lease and is considering taking more space next year. The company specializes in corporate meetings and conferences.
Thirty years in the Hamilton real estate market has given Jerjian an idea of what companies are looking for. Jerjian grew up in Leicester, Great Britain, where his parents, Edward and Mary, owned a trading company. He moved to America in the early 1980s to manage Ibis, which was a family investment, and stayed. He is married with two children and lives in Virginia.
Christopher owns Ibis Plaza together with his brothers George and Jack, who both live in London. George is a writer and publisher and Jack is a doctor.
Jerjian’s ambitions for Ibis Plaza are not as far flung, though he sees expansion in the future for the Express Offices if the concept takes off. He already has several tenants who leased space sight unseen, which could be an indication of pent-up demand.
“If we see demand is there, and it’s big, especially in this slow market, we intend to roll out something in Lawrence and West Windsor and get closer to Princeton if we can,” he says. “We intend to specialize in addressing this market.”
Ibis Group, 3535 Quakerbridge Road, Ibis Plaza, Suite 105, Box 3199, Hamilton 08619; 609-588-6900; fax, 609-588-8949. Christopher Jerjian, principal.