Practicing What We Preach
Scott Spector Sept. 16, 2013, 6 a.m.
Last summer, Spector Group was in a very unique position: We became our own client. After being on the other side of the computer screen, designing office spaces for top-notch New York City companies, we relocated to 183 Madison Avenue and got to experience the whole process we guide our clients through firsthand—site tours, lease negotiations, design, construction, furniture selection and, finally, seven months later, the big move.
So here are some important things we learned along the way:
Check Out the Neighborhood
What’s the best spot for your workforce and your clients? Does it have the right vibe? Will it be a reasonable commute for employees? Are there plenty of good eating options within walking distance? Are subway lines accessible? Now, take that process a few steps further, and test out the factors I’ve just mentioned. For instance, I personally walked the neighborhood before committing, ate at local restaurants and takeout spots and tried out the transportation to and from my home. Then I asked a few others in my office to do the same and listened to their feedback. This basic investigation was absolutely worth the extra time and effort!
Views and Light
Start with positioning: Do you want to be high in the sky, opting for a top-floor space, or would you prefer a second- or third-floor office with a streetscape? Since our former space was on an upper floor, we wanted a change of view, literally. Now we have a streetscape that brings all of the action and excitement of Midtown right into our office.
Also, as we always recommend, make sure there’s not just enough light, but plenty of natural light if possible. This was a top consideration for us and we’re glad we made it a priority in selecting our new home.
Speaking of views, particularly if there’s a streetscape at stake, be sure to speak with the ownership about sidewalk bridges. We included a clause in our lease that any sidewalk bridges need to be installed in a way that does not eliminate any part of our view. Don’t just assume that’s a given; get it in writing.
What’s the chief complaint companies have after moving into a space? If you guessed the temperature, then you’re right on. In fact, 90 percent of tenants we begin to program a new space requirement for have issues with HVAC, and it’s often difficult to balance the system after the fact. Knowing this, we spent a tremendous amount of time with the building ownership choosing a system that fit our needs and then negotiating it into the lease agreement. Our space is that much better for it, and we hope we can assist all of our clients with the same.
Ceiling or No Ceiling
There are pluses and minuses to both options. An open ceiling lets some of the building’s innate characteristics come through and creates an airy feel. However, suspended ceilings are often preferred from an acoustics standpoint. After weighing the two, we decided to do both, combining open areas with “clouds” of ceilings, blending both together to reap the benefits of each.
Yes, open floor plans are all the rage right now, but there should also be places for heads-down focusing, private meetings and small conferences. These quiet areas balance out the open, communal spaces and allow for future changes within the company. Keep them flexible, and they can be easily transformed and maneuvered to meet your firm’s needs five (or 10) years down the line, even if you can’t predict what those future needs are today.
CM vs. GC
Whether you choose to work with a construction manager or bid to multiple general contractors is a question that should be heavily considered before proceeding with the design and build-out. Rather than go over the finer points here, I’ll save this for a more in-depth discussion to take place in this very column in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
Build a Relationship
Who better to build a relationship with than your building manager? Being friendly with management is not only the nice thing to do, it’s absolutely critical. Most building managers are wonderful to work with and can be a wealth of information, but you have to get to know them first.
Our new offices have become the perfect learning tool for us and for our clients—a living case study, if you will—to share the build-out experience more personally. So to our clients—current and future ones—should you want to chat more or tour our new space, the door is always open!