Business Development / March 13, 2020
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The Building Repositioning and Emerging Workforce Trends discussion, held by SMPS Boston at the UMass Club on October 25th, was attended by a diverse group of industry professionals representing a wide variety of skills, businesses and service offerings.
Haril Pandya, Principal and Head of Asset Strategy and Repositioning at CBT Architects, led the panelists through a series of questions while keeping it lively and upbeat. Panelists included Ted Chryssicas, Executive Managing Director at Newmark Knight Frank; Dave Greany, President of Synergy Investments; Andrew Maher, Founder and Managing Director at Anchor Line Partners and Phil Dorman, Head of Leasing at Oxford Properties. They walked us through the thought process from the perspective of a buyer, lessor and developer as they approach building renovations to attract the right type of tenant.
Haril started the conversation with a question that affects areas and geographical locations nationwide, and certainly looms large here within historical Boston. “How does a building owner combat repositioning an older building to attract clientele versus developing land into a new build and obtaining tenants from the beginning?” Andrew began by reiterating that staying abreast of the latest trends and workforce desires is imperative to knowing what truly needs to be planned for in a building. Repositioning directly effects the cost that tenants will need to lease a space so the developer and property manager can recoup their assets. Phil quickly jumped in to state an example of an older building bringing true value to the industry once changes and repositioning occurred.
A Repositioning Success Story
125 Summer Street in downtown Boston was an older building with lots of character, yet it also came with the need to appeal to a younger audience, a more open floor plan throughout and a modern upgrade. Oxford Properties took on the challenge to convert a great space, which due to the age and outdated interior, was left at 30% vacant. Sparing no expense, they designed a space that attracted a fresh audience and within a matter of months decreased the vacancy from 30% down to 1%.
Developing a Building Brand
The panelist continued to provoke interest throughout the audience, filled with marketing professionals, by discussing the importance of creating a brand within the building. With the challenges of construction costs looming, they face the question of whether to brand the building themselves and use a theme to tie in throughout the amenity spaces, corridors, lobby areas and common gathering places, or utilize a large company to be the anchor, ground floor tenant, to help kick start a building’s identity. The statistics show that regular gym equipment and workout rooms don’t cut it these days as it has become a facility norm and not an amenity or added benefit. Employees and company owners need specialty gyms, spin studios, etc. to obtain and retain the appropriate tenants long-term. Determining the best path to take can be frustrating and confusing but each panelist agreed that by putting your trust in a larger, established and trustworthy workout studio, restaurant, bar or even coffee shop, can help tremendously to take the stress away and allow focus to remain on other factors throughout the repositioning process.
Answering the Decade Old Question
Millennials have shifted the mindset of entire companies and industries. As it pertains to building repositioning, Andrew with Anchor Line states that we blame the millennials for the shift in workplace environments, we point the finger when they ask for amenity spaces or active areas, yet when it comes to appealing to all, not just the Millennial generation has a desire for these types of live, work, play spaces. Whether in the city or the suburbs, employees are desperate for a place to walk and grab a coffee, take a break from the computer and connectivity and just relax in a common community environment, whether for lunch or just a quick escape. The Millennials may have challenged the status quo years ago, but their wish list has certainly been embraced throughout the professional world.
New York City has always been a leader in the trends and innovation community, filled with a plethora of new designs, international cultures, and independent thinking – utilizing old with the new. San Francisco may take the style and architectural world by storm while Chicago embraces culture and design, but Boston is a leader in its own way. The speakers passionately discussed that even though the trends and designs from other cities certainly act as a beacon and example, the Boston residents, professionals and community embrace the historical nature of our city and enjoy working within the charm and character painted throughout the walls and city streets. Trends and repositioning may come and go and other cities will continue to highlight what works best, which will help Boston gauge the perfect path to take on the road to development and repositioning throughout this historic city.
Haril and the panelists drove a discussion that was informative, entertaining and enlightening. They helped to simplify what’s to come. Clearly, professionals throughout the A/E/C industry are taking notice of ways to help improve our work life balance, and working to design spaces that inspire.