Architecture & Design and Real Estate

Commercial real estate commits to design

September 19, 2014
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We've all seen the news articles lately trumpeting the new retailers entering the Grand Rapids region and the improvement in office market occupancy rates. Hidden inside this new optimism is the extraordinary investment that landlords are making in their products — not just the investment into the buildings, but, rather, a methodical and thoughtful process on how design affects not only the buildings, but the environments and communities where they stand. Why? Because design matters.

In the retail sector, in addition to location, demographics, co-tenancy and new size paradigms, we find many executives are spending hours fashioning the shopper’s overall experience. They are choosing to make additional investments in architecturally interesting designs to enhance the customer experience. Including park-like amenities such as planters, water features, common area seating, etc., tends to encourage the customer to “linger.” Prominent retailers know that the longer a customer is on the property, the more money they are likely to spend. And the more customers enjoy the environment, the more likely they are to return. With the growing trend of “de-malling,” it becomes that much more important to create a superior ambiance and experience.

In the office market, we've seen a similar “flight to quality” or appreciation of good design and location. In the restoration of many of the buildings downtown, landlords have gone to great lengths (and sizable investment) to provide high-quality common area environments. Building owners have created grand entrances, common area gathering space, free wi-fi connections, charging stations, and upgraded amenities in an effort to foster a greater overall experience for their tenants. These changes are in reaction to two general themes often heard from clients: One, many of their industries are in growth modes and their companies need to provide a working environment that will aid in the recruitment and retention of young talent. The workforce of the future wants creative spaces that fuel innovation and collaboration. Second, clients are increasingly sensitive to the experience that their customers and clients encounter when they come to visit. The building in which companies locate must reflect their brand and make a positive first impression.

The renewed dedication to design quality in our region has instilled a sense of pride, not only to each building but to the downtown Grand Rapids community itself. As we tour potential clients through our newly restored historic buildings, we have received extraordinary feedback. Occupancy has doubled in those buildings where quality design and consideration of the overall experience were well-planned and brought to fruition.  

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