CBRE, After Launching WeWork Competitor, Forecasts Coworking Shift

A new report from CBRE predicts that the market for U.S. coworking space will continue to expand robustly over next decade, despite any coming recessions. The report's high-growth scenario has as much as 22% of office space occupied by coworking entities by 2030, and even the low-growth scenario puts the total by then at 6.5%, up from the current 1.8%.

Much of that growth might not be by the coworking model pioneered during this decade by WeWork and others, the report also says. CBRE predicts a shift in the industry toward partnerships between building landlords and coworking companies, rather than coworking companies being tenants that then sublease.

If so, the trend would benefit CBRE itself, which launched a flexible office business last year. The business, called Hana, doesn't lease space directly, but works with property owners to design, build and operate coworking space for them.

According to CBRE, a recession would push more operators and investors toward a partnership model. That would allow investors to support operators through any potential slowdown and then share in the upside when the economy strengthens.

Besides being a consistent money loser as it has ballooned in size, one of the main criticisms of WeWork — which essentially brings in revenue through the arbitrage between what it pays to landlords and what coworking tenants pay to it — is that it is untested in a recession, when coworking demand will presumably shrink.

The deals WeWork and others ink with landlords have “completely misaligned incentives,” Hana CEO Andrew Kupiec told The Wall Street Journal.

Though CBRE is looking to grow Hana, its foray into coworking hasn't expanded as rapidly as some other brands. The company is currently mulling a location in New York, and it has locations in Texas and California. It aims to be in 25 American markets in the next three to four years, and will open its first three U.K. offices by the end of this year.