By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – One of our commenters posted a link with listings (link) which shows a list of commercial offerings in Davis. It looks like an impressive list until you actually go through the listings and categorize them by type and you realize a few things very quickly.
I entered the information from the listings into a spreadsheet and posted it (here). Back-of-the-envelope stuff but it illustrates the problem with looking at numbers of commercial listings and saying, hey look, we have tons of space we can already utilize.
The first thing that jumps out is some of those spaces are retail spaces—we’re talking about spaces in the U-Mall which is being redeveloped, Target, and Davis Commons. In all, eight of the 31 listings are for retail spaces.
The biggest segment is office space. That makes a lot of sense. While many companies are going back to in-person, the pandemic has changed the nature of the office environment probably permanently and so, yes, there is a lot of office space.
This is a key point, because, for the most part, you are not going to be looking to office space if you are looking to move a lab or R&D to Davis.
I said yesterday that you can’t put a lab into office space. That probably oversimplified the point. You would have to do some major renovation and upgrades to be able to do it.
Most office spaces do not have the wiring, the HVAC, and other infrastructure needs to be able to support much more than an office. And I can tell you personally that, even with our organization, the current office space lacks a lot of what we needed. If we had our own on-site server, we would need to move to another location.
So yes, you could renovate a lot of the older and more antiquated offices at great cost, you could develop the buildings themselves also at great cost, but most businesses that would need space the size that exists in Davis, are small start ups and they don’t have the resources to do that and the business owners are not interested in spending the money to upgrade when they know eventually someone will rent it as is.
There are a few larger spaces available even for office—the old Enterprise printing press, for example, is available, not sure what condition that building is. I did see a few flex spaces available on the list—most of them smaller than 5000 square feet.
I saw exactly one lab-ready space available on Drew in the University Research Park at about 6500 square feet. One problem we have from the listings: unless you actually contact the agent, you have no idea if that space is still available.
Bottom line is that rather than disproving the notion that we lack space, going through this listing of 31 spaces proves what we already knew—there is not much left for lab and R&D in Davis. What is available is on the small side and, from what I understand, is quickly snatched up.
Just talk to someone like Tim Keller, because if there was appropriate space for labs and startups of the sort that they are looking to move to DiSC, they would already be snatched up by someone like Keller or the like.
Keller in a March interview with the Vanguard said that “Davis has been ‘leaking’ extremely valuable companies for decades now. Because we have a lack of commercial space, a lot of companies set up shop in Woodland, West Sac, or elsewhere. These are companies founded by Davis residents—and those residents are forced to commute out of Davis to work.”
He later added, “We need to ensure that the actual build-out comprises mostly flexible buildings that are easy to subdivide into suites that are in the 1,000-2,000 square foot range. That is what startup companies need…”
Keller completely filled the space at Inventopia and has been looking for additional space to expand—but so far has had no luck.
Some may have noticed last fall that there was a listing for about 85,000 square feet at the Mori Seiki site along Second Street. If you drive by that spot now, you will notice that sign is gone. I have been told there will be a big announcement about that at some point here—maybe even this week.
The bottom line is that there is some available retail and office space in Davis—but in terms of actual flex and lab space, it’s pretty much non-existent or not ready to use.