This article was updated at 3:26 p.m. on Oct. 2, 2023 to correct that the management company is Simpson Housing not Simpson Property Group, and is based in Denver, Colorado.
Influenced by the influx of remote workers and the new normal of working from home, multifamily developers are starting to tailor building design and amenities towards a new demographic – the remote workforce. This can be seen in downtown Bethesda’s latest upcoming residential development, The Camille, which features a penthouse co-working lounge set with booth-style workstations, a conference room and private office spaces.
The 14-story apartment building will feature 181 units including 32 moderately priced dwelling units and is located at 7000 Wisconsin Ave. The project is a joint venture led by Woodfield Development, which is based across the East Coast, and Simpson Housing, based in Denver, Colorado.
According to the project lead, Todd Jacobus, the project is set for a fall completion and cost roughly $100 million.
The Camille is in the final stages of construction, but pre-leasing began in August, according to Adrienne Hill, the senior vice president of marketing and training at Simpson Housing. Hill says residents can expect to begin moving into The Camille in December.
Although the planning process for The Camille began in 2018, the pandemic revealed the fast-growing trend and necessity of remote work, Jacobus said.
The drastic change in how people work and live day-to-day influenced developers like Jacobus to rethink the types of amenities that may be attractive to Montgomery County residents looking for housing.
“Once the quarantines and everything associated with COVID began to take root, people began to realize that [remote work] was going to be the new normal for the medium- to long-term,” he said.
For those who work from home, having the space to stretch their legs and find a change of scenery is the great appeal of a co-working lounge like the one at The Camille, Jacobus said.
Hill added that a co-working space is also an important feature for residents that may feel isolated while working from home and can bring life and activity into common spaces that are typically underutilized in apartment buildings, she said.
At The Camille, the co-working space is located on the top floor of the building surrounded by floor to ceiling windows, a green roof, with views into Washington, D.C. From the roof one can also see the Washington Monument, the Mormon Temple in Kensington and Tyson’s Corner in Northern Virginia.
Also, on the same floor as the co-workspace is the building’s main common area called the Sky Lounge, which features a shared kitchen, a game room and an outdoor lounge and grilling area.
Nearby the apartment building are destinations including Bethesda Row, Trader Joe’s, Don Pollo and True Food Kitchen.
Remote work trends
Remote working was not an entirely new concept for workers across the county before COVID-19. Before the pandemic, Jacobus said he had already begun to see the trend emerging, such as the average square-foot of office space per worker and average lease space shrinking in the office market and the increase in telecommuting.
According to a report from Montgomery Planning and the Montgomery County Economic Development Corp., the county already had a “relatively high” percentage of people working from home, with 5.9% of people in the county working remotely in 2010.
In 2019 the county’s share of remote workers increased to 6.7%, but the biggest increase occurred after the pandemic with 37.1% of workers working remotely in 2021. In 2022, the number of people working from home in MoCo fell to 28%. There are no numbers available for the percent of remote workers in 2023.
Washington, D.C. had 5.9% of workers working from home in 2010, 7.4% in 2019 and 48.4% in 2021, according to the report.
The report states that it is unclear whether the remote work trend will persist due to many workplaces having transitioned from completely remote work policies to hybrid-remote or full in-person work environments.
Carrie McCarthy, chief of Research and Strategic Projects at Montgomery Planning, echoed a similar sentiment. “There’s a lot of uncertainty about what’s going to happen in the future,” she said.
“The data shows a significant jump [in remote working] with the pandemic but, it’s starting to decline as people go back to the office,” she said. “One thing that’s interesting about MoCo is we have a large federal workforce. … We are primarily a residential suburban community, so the impact of people working from home sort of has meant there has been more people staying in MoCo who used to go to D.C. or used to go other places.”
This year the Biden administration urged federal workers to return to the office this fall, which make up 11% of all workers in the county, the report said.
The Camille reflects a broader shift happening in the newest housing developments coming to the county, according to Jacobus. Existing residential buildings in the county that feature co-working spaces and work-from-home features are The Elms in Clarksburg, NoBe Market Apartments in North Bethesda and Mallory Square in Rockville.
A new project that recently reached approval from the Planning Board is a mixed-use multifamily apartment building at 7126 Wisconsin Ave., with live-work units and short-term rental units. According to Elza Hisel-McCoy, the chief of Downcounty Planning at Montgomery Planning, it’s all about flexibility in new projects coming to the county.
“[Developers] aren’t really proposing office buildings anymore. There are one or two here and there but generally it’s multifamily. They’re looking to diversify the options they have available to them,” he said.
According to Jacobus, for many residents living in the county or coming to work in MoCo, having access to flexible workspaces is “non-negotiable.” He believes that developers who don’t prioritize this will fall behind. “This is the wave of the future,” he said.