As companies strive to attract millennial and Gen Z employees in a tight labor market, the decision to take office space – particularly retrofitted space in iconic buildings – may hinge on the cool perks that are offered.
Maria Sicola of Cushman & Wakefield notes in an article titled “Repositioning Yesterday’s Buildings for Today’s Changing Workforce,” published in Development Magazine, that the major challenge with older structures is that they are saddled with decades-old features designed for a different generation of users with different priorities and work habits.
While there are major challenges with these buildings, there are also positives: One recent survey found that 97 percent of young respondents said they appreciated the value of historic preservation and prefer to live, work and play in neighborhoods with older structures.
Old may be in vogue, but the layout of space inside these buildings can make or break a retrofit. While companies have long pushed trendy co-working spaces, one recent study found that employees need a quiet place to work. In fact, privacy is the most craved amenity, according to the survey.
Choice is Key
One innovative answer to noisy open space is to create a variety of different options, according to The Frontier Project, a consulting firm. It recommends six types of spaces in the open office environment including:
- co-working space;
- collaborative space;
- concentration space;
- social space;
- private space; and
- in-between space like corridors and storage spaces.
The architectural firm Baskervill offers additional advice for retrofitting older space including: giving the building an updated look, incorporating a third space (undefined space that can be used for a variety of purposes), offering shared business amenities, activating dead zones and connecting with the neighborhood.
Another key amenity is nature. Buildings can incorporate it with rooftop gardens, planted balconies and tended spaces where tenants can retreat and recharge. CookFox Architects focuses on sustainability and makes green outdoor space a prerequisite with all of the buildings it designs; the firm practices what it preaches at its own offices in New York City with lush plantings on its terraces. The real buzz at the firm, however, is the presence of two beehives at its offices.
Recent Updates at Iconic Buildings
At Philadelphia’s 1735 Market Street building, constructed in 1990, the major amenity is the tenant-only The Lounge @ 1735, a beautiful 19,000-square foot amenity floor. It includes a 100-person classroom-style conference facility lined with tables and screens, tenant lounge, fireplaces, tabletop shuffleboard, wine lockers, giant-screen TVs and an outdoor terrace featuring vistas of vibrant Market Street.
Rockefeller Center, a top New York landmark built in 1930, owned by Tishman Speyer, is undergoing a major renovation with cost estimates placed in the “mid-to-high eight digits.” Along with the addition of extensive retail space and other amenities, Tishman Speyer is offering a mobile app called Zo. Zo makes life easier for busy Rockefeller Center tenants by allowing them to book many services from their phone such as meal delivery, physical therapy, medical check-up, back-up child care, yoga, dry cleaning, ride shares and more.
Chicago’s tallest building, Willis Tower, better known by its previous name of the Sears Tower, is getting a $500 million expansion/makeover. The Blackstone Group, which owns the 1974 property, will add new retail space, food hall, meeting and events space, restaurants, entertainment, a rooftop park, lounges, fitness center, modernization of elevators and a soaring, multistory skylight, which will be supported by 75,000-pound beams. The interior will be redone with terra cotta elements, as well as wood from logs recovered from Lake Michigan to soften the look of the space.
Ron Derven is Contributing Editor to Development Magazine and writes on real estate topics for The New York Times