Federal agencies that are reducing space might believe that compiling an accurate space inventory and identifying facilities for space reduction or closure are the hardest steps in the program. These pieces are challenging and are certainly critical to the overall success of the effort but once you have accomplished this, it is equally important to make progress. Two questions that frequently come up at this point are: why is it so difficult to give space back and why does it take so long? There are several factors that affect this part of the process.
Reducing space can be accomplished by relinquishing a space that isn’t being used, lock the door behind you, and hand the key to your landlord (GSA, in many cases for federal agencies). These are called “lock and walk” projects and, while it sounds like a simple plan, there are a few issues to consider.
Considerations When Reducing Space
First, the space must be marketable, usually defined by location and size of space. A marketable space needs to be accessible from the common corridors in the building so that it could be assigned to another tenant. This means that if you find a space in the middle of your office – say a large file room that you no longer use – you cannot simply give that space back to GSA because it isn’t accessible from the common corridor (unless you are willing to put a big hallway through your space). Also, marketable space must be a minimum size, typically at least 500 USF (preferably more). So finding one or two offices to vacate, even if they are adjacent to the building common corridor, will not be deemed marketable space.
Second, GSA won’t accept a space release during the first 16 months of a tenant’s occupancy term. Thus, agencies with new occupancy agreements must wait to reduce the space footprint.
Finally, even if your space is ideal – a large block of space, preferably with windows, natural light, and access to the building common corridor – and you have occupied the space for more than 16 months, it will take 120 days for GSA to process your space release.
So, if reducing space is going to be achieved by this “lock and walk” concept, make sure that the space is marketable, you’ve been in the space for at least a year and a half, and you’ve set expectations that there will be a four-month gap between notifying GSA of your intent to release the space and seeing the space and rent savings drop off your rent bill.
The next blog on this topic will address the length of time it takes to release space by undertaking a project to reduce the space footprint.