When Coworking Meets Hospitality: A New Jersey Success Story
Round Table Studios is a boutique coworking space that aims to enhance users' work-life balance. The Connell Co.'s Shane Connell reveals how.
The rise of hybrid work models plays a pivotal role in reshaping the traditional office sector. Investors are now searching for ways to meet the evolving demands of tenants and lure them back in, by offering more flexible and creative workspaces. With many office users relocating from urban city centers to suburban areas over the past few years, investors are seeking to meet their needs and develop mixed-use, amenity-rich projects away from the hustle and bustle of core city areas.
The Connell Co.‘s $400 million project in Berkeley Heights, N.J.—The Park—is transforming a cluster of office properties built in the 1980s into a mixed-use development that aims to “bring the city to the suburbs,” as Executive Vice President Shane Connell puts it. Once completed, the 185-acre corporate park will encompass 1.5 million square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of retail, a hotel and 328 apartments, as well as four parks, and bike and walking trails.
The Park is already home to Round Table Studios, a 44,000-square-foot boutique coworking space, designed by Gensler and David M. Sullivan Design, spanning two floors and offering a wide range of amenities. Besides 11 conference rooms for up to 30 people, private offices and studios, and modern meeting spaces, Round Table Studios provides access to a fitness center, curated meal plans, a library and a social club, combining a hospitality-centric approach with much-needed flexibility for a healthy work-life balance.
In this interview with Commercial Property Executive, Connell talks about the vision behind the coworking location, highlighting its wellness features and the amenities that cater to office users’ dynamic lifestyles.
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How did you come up with the Round Table Studios concept and what inspired your focus on lifestyle amenities and curated services?
Connell: As the industry navigates a widespread transformation of the traditional office concept, RTS and The Park are reimagining the typical work environment by facilitating a more balanced lifestyle for our members. As an integral aspect of The Park’s campus, RTS was established as part of our mission to deliver a productive, social, healthy and inclusive work solution that meets the expectations of today’s top companies.
RTS supports our efforts towards this vision by delivering tech-forward meeting room options, short-term flexible work solutions, and social activations for the community. Further, the collection of unique lifestyle amenities and curated concierge services featured at RTS (and at The Park) helps promote employee well-being and satisfaction.
Tell us some details about the layout of the space and the main amenities members have access to.
Connell: The Social Club, the main communal space of RTS, is outfitted with custom-made furniture, task tables and a library complete with a hand-picked selection of literature. The Social Club offers members a quiet working space before transforming into a lively community gathering hub in the evening.
RT Farm, our workplace cafe and bar, provides a unique blend of dining and workspace, featuring striking design elements, including a custom-made stone bar. During the workday, members can enjoy barista-prepared espresso drinks and choose from a variety of fresh, nutritious food options. In the evening, the space is used for cocktail happy hours. Along with hosting other social, fitness and wellness activities, RT Farm regularly invites members to gather and enjoy family-style dinners on ‘Supper Club’ nights.
The second-floor Loft provides members and their guests with a light-filled flexible space furnished with task tables, large booths, a library annex as well as a multifunctional social gaming area with a pool table. Additionally, the Loft is conveniently adjacent to the Stadium Seating area which provides the ideal setting for open-air meetings and cultural discussions with built-in custom lighted task seating.
What coworking options and plans does RTS offer to its members, and what is the tenants’ profile?
Connell: We cater to a variety of member needs, offering monthly social and fitness memberships for individuals at The Park and short-term, flexible work memberships for both individuals and companies at RTS.
Our tenants at RTS range from individual employees and independent business owners to Fortune 500 companies desiring a modern, highly amenitized workspace along with access to The Park’s abundance of social and state-of-the-art fitness offerings.
What are the top three things that differentiate RTS from other boutique coworking spaces available within the New Jersey area.
Connell: RTS sets itself apart by delivering a diverse array of carefully programmed social and wellness offerings, elevated bespoke spaces designed for easy collaboration and an exceptional selection of dining options—all of which are supported by the work of our hospitality, wellness and fine dining teams.
In your view, what role does the green campus where RTS is located play in the growing demand for coworking space?
Connell: As modern work patterns evolve, driven by advancements in technology and shifts influenced by the pandemic, companies are increasingly seeking best-in-class office solutions that foster a balanced, healthy work-life environment for their employees. The range of amenities and services at RTS, akin to those typically found in five-star hotels, reflects this market demand and helps companies attract and retain top talent in a location accessible to the area’s in-demand workforce.
Our green campus exemplifies our commitment to sustainable design, one of our guiding principles. At RTS and The Park, we make a concerted effort to merge sustainable infrastructure, like solar canopies and electric car charging stations, with health-focused, eco-friendly amenities—including landscaped walking paths and a bike share program—in recognition of the importance of implementing sustainable practices to safeguard the future of our planet.
What specific lifestyle amenities and services at RTS contribute to employee well-being and work-life balance?
Connell: As part of our comprehensive wellness program, we have an onsite fitness center, FIELDHOUSE, with access to top-notch facilities that can be utilized both during and outside of the workday and a dedicated onsite nutritionist who offers personalized nutritional coaching and hosts nutrition classes. We also offer an array of nutritious food options on campus. RT Farm offers convenient grab-and-go choices, and our Parklife Meals program caters to the varying needs of individuals, ensuring everyone’s unique dietary requirements are met.
The Park’s location within a sprawling green campus grants members access to complementary bike rentals and scenic walking trails. We believe that connecting with nature is essential for overall well-being and encourage members to take advantage of these outdoor options. Beyond physical health, we also value the importance of social connections, which is why we host a vibrant social activation calendar, designed to bring our community together and foster new connections among members.
Please expand on the features that enhance employee productivity and improve their overall satisfaction.
Connell: Parklife Meals was created to fulfill the need for more healthy meal options that promote convenience and cater to employees’ health aspirations. Taking cues from the prepared meal delivery services that have grown in popularity across the country, Parklife Meals enables tenants and guests to enjoy dietician-approved, fully prepared meals, which are available for pick-up and accessible for order via an app that provides full nutrition details. The Park’s level of service and amenities helps our tenants be productive in their work environment by fostering a holistic work-life balance.
What aspects did you consider when designing the fitness center, and how does it complement the overall coworking experience?
Connell: When designing FIELDHOUSE, our 12,000-square-foot boutique fitness center and game room, we wanted to keep in mind the holistic wellness experience. We wanted to offer both personalized training services, group fitness classes, and high-quality equipment for individual use, to provide options for all types of gym-goers. As a free amenity for 200 tenants, including RTS members, we wanted to offer a fitness space that is welcoming while also being state-of-the-art.
As a result of FIELDHOUSE’s success, we plan to open a second FIELDHOUSE location that’s open to the public at The District, a mixed-use development consisting of five new buildings and 190,000 square feet of retail and dining within a central pedestrian corridor, that will transform the campus as a dynamic place for its tenants and an attractive destination for the surrounding communities, when it’s complete.
Can you share a few details about the type of social events organized here? To what extent do they contribute to fostering connections and a sense of community among members?
Connell: As the office ‘amenities arms race’ continues, events and services are becoming a critical part of the success equation. With this evolution in mind, The Park hired its first social experience curator—aka Chief Fun Officer—Susan Labunski, who facilitates an array of activities ranging from nutrition planning and fitness classes to themed dinner parties to activate The Park’s on-campus amenities and create social experiences that employees will look forward to before, during and after their workday.
Our goal at RTS is to foster a strong sense of community among our members. Indoors, we offer communal dining, workspaces, lounges, conference rooms, and phone booths. Outdoors, covered work and dining areas complement the offerings.
Our programmed features and activities include daily happy hours at RT Farm, and scheduled fitness and wellness classes such as group circuit training, meditation and yoga. Additionally, engaging group activities like boxing, walking and running clubs are part of the monthly social calendar. Supper club dinners, game nights, dance classes, book clubs, and food truck evenings bring members together. To keep everyone in the loop, we make activity updates easily accessible through our RTS lobby and Park app, ensuring that no one misses out on the fun. We also offer to organize private corporate team-building events, tailored to meet specific team dynamics and objectives.
Are you planning on opening similar boutique coworking spaces in other markets? If so, which ones are you targeting?
Connell: We present an elevated coworking solution that goes beyond conventional offerings. Our unique approach seamlessly integrates social, wellness, culinary, and the workspace, creating a comprehensive hospitality solution for any large office building or campus development. As we continue to grow, we are open to extending our model to new locations across the country.