The Philadelphia Inquirer is negotiating a lease at the midcentury landmark at 100 S. Independence Mall West still often known as the Rohm & Haas building for a move that would shrink the newspaper’s office footprint by almost two thirds.
The Inquirer will occupy 34,000 square feet on the sixth floor of the property, about 60% less space than it currently leases at the former Strawbridge’s building at 801 Market St., Inquirer vice president Lydia Hamilton said in an online staff meeting Monday.
Most Inquirer staff have been working from home since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. The company employs 370.
The planned adjustment is based on the expectation that much work will continue to be done at home or other off-site locations, with employees visiting the office mostly for collaborative tasks, Hamilton said. The change will also save the paper about $1 million a year in real estate costs, with the new space expected to open during the first three months of 2023, she said.
“This is a prudent utilization of square footage, given the reduced number of employees that will be in the office,” Hamilton said. “This is going to shift the way that we work.”
The Inquirer’s planned move — about two blocks east of its current home — follows similar decisions by other area companies including drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline and weight-loss-products company Nutrisystem, which are also said to have signed recent deals for smaller offices.
Real estate analysts are waiting to see how many more companies will follow suit, said Rosemary Penny, Philadelphia research director for commercial real estate firm Colliers International.
“We just do not have enough volume of deals to show a trend, or whether the smaller office size is entirely due to companies switching to a hybrid model,” she said.
The Inquirer moved into its current offices at the former Strawbridge’s department store at Eighth and Market Streets in 2012, when it departed its longtime home at 400 N. Broad St., an 18-story tower that is being converted into Philadelphia Police Department headquarters.
The building at 100 South Independence Mall West was built for chemicals company Rohm & Haas more than 50 years ago based on a design by architect Pietro Belluschi, whose other works include New York’s MetLife Building. Dow Chemical Co. became the building’s namesake tenant after acquiring Rohm & Haas in 2009.
The building has since been acquired by West Conshohocken-based Keystone Property Group, which signed a deal with Macquarie Group in 2018, after Dow left the building, that made the Australian financial giant’s investment management arm into its anchor tenant.
Keystone also updated the building, including creating the ground-floor retail space for a branch of the La Colombe coffee chain and the seasonal Independence Beer Garden.
Those shops were cited by Hamilton in her presentation to employees as amenities of the planned new space, along with the increased daylight from windows that will surround the office.
Under a model known as hoteling, none of the planned space’s 195 cubicles or five enclosed offices will be assigned to any individual worker, instead being available to be reserved as needed, Hamilton said.
“This is a different way we’re going to be working,” Hamilton said. “The idea of the five-day workweek in the office is evolving.”