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Wednesday
May042016

Transform, Revitalize, Refresh

Tailored design interventions can position existing properties for long-term success.

Discussions about office buildings usually revolve around the businesses that will inhabit them. But at the root of these tenants is their human capital: the individuals that choose to work at these organizations. Employees today seek a connected work environment, one that offers proximity to a host of amenities, such as food, errands and even exercise.

With an emerging young workforce, the objectives for office buildings are quickly and dramatically changing. There is an ever-increasing value placed on health, comfort and experience.

The way that we work has also shifted. The corner office is being replaced by the corner café, reflecting a philosophy that an open, collaborative work environment is the framework for a successful business. A key workplace design driver, therefore, is the acquisition and retention of talent.

New construction projects have the flexibility to prioritize building design and characteristics that appeal to the workforce and will maximize occupancy rates as well as cost per square foot. But how can the owners and prospective buyers of our city’s growing inventory of aging real estate assets compete with this?

As with most important questions, the answer is complex and not the same for every building.

An amenity-rich environment offers expanded platforms for working, but also makes it easier for to squeeze some play into our day. The gym, coffee shop and lounge are not only places where you can take a break, but also serve as alternative meeting space. Adding such creative program to older buildings and capitalizing from their imbedded value makes it possible to lift properties believed to be dated to new levels.

Regardless of location, spaces can be created that evoke the feeling of an urban hub. Especially in the suburbs, where space is less of a limited asset, investments in outdoor spaces will set your property apart from the competition.

While the potential for programmatic improvements is a route available to all buildings at some scale, certain sites also have intrinsic value that can be leveraged.

Location, location, location…The adage continues to ring true and is often the greatest consideration when prospective tenants evaluate properties. Many centrally-located buildings offer easy access to transportation hubs and their collection of restaurants, retail and other amenities. In older cities like Boston, they may also boast materials and architectural details that add richness and character, but aren’t typically found in contemporary construction.

At 75-101 Federal Street in Boston, lobby renovations will reimagine the entry and through-lobby experience. By marrying a modern aesthetic with the buildings’ classic deco heritage, Rockpoint Group will ultimately attract new tenants to this signature office tower. In this example, these design elements work in tandem with programming changes, such as an 8,000 SF fitness center, which offers the onsite workforce an easy-access respite before, during, or after their workday.

As companies strive to differentiate their workplaces, mill, deco and early modernist buildings can provide engaging settings with rich and unique architectural character. For a range of reasons, both financial and geographic, some organizations must opt into settings that don’t necessarily have any unique characteristics. This is where the real design fun begins. It is amazing how the right design intervention can be transformative, finding value that didn’t previously exist.

Elevating the income stream of older properties is not limited to understanding their intrinsic value or program potential. Workspace configuration, or typology, is another way to bring new life to buildings, of any age. Prebuilt suites, work lofts, boutique headquarters and workplace townhouses are just a few ways properties can be configured to reflect the changes in how we work.

Sophisticated property owners are diversifying their target tenant base. Rather than create common and leasable space to suit the preferences of a particular market segment, such as financial or professional services, configuration, furnishings and fixtures are selected to appeal to a broader demographic.

The most successful properties will be those that offer a range of space types. Developers are already opting to combine loft-style workspace and more traditional closed office settings into one building.

Ultimately, the notion of repositioning, like all design work, is not an all or nothing proposition. By partnering with designers and workplace strategists that understand what matters the most to today’s sophisticated talent, property owners can determine how best to transform, revitalize and refresh their asset.

Todd leads a studio in Gensler’s Boston office, which focuses on campus and building architecture. Guided by his belief that good design can optimize organizational performance, Todd works closely with corporate clients, real estate owners and developers to maximize the design value of their new and repositioned buildings. Contact him at todd_dundon@gensler.com.
Jonathan is a design leader with more than twenty years of professional experience committed to performative design of intelligent, sustainable architecture. He has executed contemporary buildings throughout the US and the rest of the world. Contact him at jonathan_ginnis@gensler.com.

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