3 Ways Suburban Businesses Can ‘Move’ Downtown Without Breaking the Bank

Expedia in Seattle. Zappos in Las Vegas. Archer Daniels Midland, Gogo and Motorola in Chicago.


The list of high-profile companies that have abandoned their suburban campuses in favor of newer, trendier space downtown has continued to grow as businesses migrate to urban centers to be closer to the young professionals they want to hire.


Even companies that have not yet gone “all in” on a downtown address have started testing the waters with satellite offices that serve as a recruiting tool for employees, particularly millennials, who increasingly want to live and work in the city.


While large national and international brands can often afford to have a presence in both urban and suburban settings, smaller businesses have historically been forced to choose between the two, with many opting to lease space in the suburbs due to their relative affordability. Today, however, that’s beginning to change as suburban businesses take advantage of several office alternatives that have allowed them to break into urban markets without breaking the bank. These include:

    • Shared offices: The proliferation of coworking spaces and shared office centers has given suburban businesses a variety of flexible downtown workspaces to choose from, many of which offer on-site support staff and a full suite of amenities – for example, a shared receptionist and multiple conference rooms – that make small businesses appear much larger than they actually are. These offices can be used on a full- or part-time basis, and are often located in desirable submarkets where landlords charge a premium for traditional office space. In addition to saving money on real estate, businesses also avoid the expense of a secretary and other administrative employees they would need to hire if leasing a space of their own. Perhaps the biggest benefit is the accessibility not only to clients that are based in the city, but also employees who live there and would prefer to work downtown at least part time.
    • Virtual offices: Virtual offices allow suburban businesses to have a reputable downtown address, typically tied to a shared office center, without leasing physical office space at that location. Many virtual office users even have the ability to use conference rooms, day offices and other shared amenity spaces – sometimes for an additional fee – that they can work out of in between meetings, or use to host clients who prefer to meet downtown. Virtual offices can prove especially valuable to suburban companies looking to bring in new business, as the downtown address is often more impressive to prospective clients that may not be familiar with a particular suburb and/or are meeting with competitors that are based in a city’s central business district.
  • A la carte services: In some cases, a suburban business may want to have the ability to work downtown without tying themselves to a particular address. For that reason, a number of office providers have started offering pay-as-you-go services that allow businesses to reserve conference rooms and private workspaces that can be rented by the hour or in shorter, 15-minute increments. Because many providers operate multiple locations in the same city, businesses can select whichever location is most convenient on a particular day, or best suited to their professional needs.

For suburban businesses that take advantage of these office alternatives, city vs. suburbs is no longer an either/or decision.



Ron Bockstahler is co-founder and CEO of Amata Office Solutions, a Chicago-based real estate provider specializing in office solutions for companies requiring up to 10,000 square feet of office space.

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