Results of Tenant Survey Serve as Basis for O.C. Office Park

By Russell J. Parker

When Parker Properties broke ground on a 70-acre, 1.7 million-square-foot, masterplanned campus-style office park in southern Orange County last year, it knew it would create a business environment that would satisfy the needs of today's--as well as tomorrow's--employees and employers alike. Why? Because before a single mound of dirt was turned, the company conducted a comprehensive tenant demand study to not only validate its vision but to ensure the development's relevance to current tenant needs and desires. After all, just as people's tastes in homes and cars change over time, so do their expectations of the modern workplace.

In the 1980s, for example, office developments were primarily financially driven in their concepts and marketing. This meant the developments were designed using per-square-foot cost considerations rather than tenant needs. During the last five years, however, there has been a heavy emphasis--primarily by office space tenants--on downsizing existing real estate needs by implementing alternative officing strategies. These strategies include concepts such as shared officing, hoteling, fewer private offices, and universal planning.

All told, these concepts represent a change in office and facility development. Today, the challenge for developers is to create office space that is flexible enough to accommodate new technologies, business growth, and new trends in the workplace environment while still providing a cost-effective real estate solution. Moreover, these trends must be balanced with the needs of corporations to attract and retain well-educated and trained personnel who desire a work environment compatible with their preferred life styles and needs.

Integrating Trends into Design Concepts

Through its tenant demand study, Parker Properties was able to examine some of today's business trends and determine how they could be integrated into the design and construction of its masterplanned office environment. Through interviews with potential tenants, technology consultants and futurists, building engineers, and workplace design professionals, the company documented emerging trends of tenant requirements and developed a master plan for Summit's architecture and infrastructure criteria.

Based on information culled from this study, Parker and its financial partner AEW were able to create a business environment that meets the needs of today's employee-focused companies and celebrates a decidedly California-style "inside-out" work environment. Following are brief summaries of the emerging trends that were reinforced by study findings. These trends will, of course, shape the way companies work today and in the future, thus affecting the type of work space and facilities that they select.

[ital]Corporate cost cutting[ital]. Increasingly, companies are focusing on reducing real estate needs and occupancy costs. The bottom line is that tenants want as much "bang for the buck" as possible. That's why alternative officing strategies such as shared offices, hoteling, flexible work schedules, and telecommuting are being used to leverage real estate costs.

[ital]Flexibility[ital]. Today's entrepreneurial gazelle industries have demonstrated that flexibility is key in terms of business growth and development. The simultaneous desire for an up-front exit strategy (shorter lease terms of three to five years) coupled with on-demand expansion capabilities create a unique challenge for today's office environment. In addition, requirements for 24-hour operations require different utility payment structures and have an impact on the ongoing on-site management of the facility once the tenant has moved in.

[ital]Building infrastructure[ital]. New technologies are evolving so rapidly that a building's power, data, and telecommunications capabilities must be able to adapt quickly and economically to reconfiguration and/or expansion. The "24-7" (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) work environment places a critical demand on a building's ability and, in turn, a company's ability to stay in touch with its "global village" around the world, 24 hours a day.

[ital]Workplace as a recruiting and retention tool[ital]. Companies are experiencing greater competition for the best and brightest employees. This is especially apparent as the workforce gets smaller. Moreover, companies are responding to employees' increasing interest in quality-of-life issues.

The study also provided an immediate list of tenant "hot buttons" that could be integrated into the master plan concept. These included: a low-rise campus setting; larger floorplates to create more contiguous space and enhance internal communications; integration of work and recreation settings; variety of outdoor landscaped settings; food/beverage and retail service; control over signage design and location; flexible building infrastructure; increased natural light in interior spaces; extended operating hours for building services; ability to have own security system; accessible, convenient, and safe parking facilities; on-site daycare and banking; and responsive property management.

The End Result

The result of some of these business and workplace trends provides a starting place for the design and development of office space today. For Parker Properties, the information became the basis for understanding tenant desires and demands and ultimately affected the entire design of Summit. As noted earlier, this research led to the creation of a business environment that brings the inside out and the outside in, developing an informal and inviting campus setting. Examples of how this was achieved in the construction of the facility include:

* Summit's buildings are built on terraced bluffs in Aliso Viejo and are laid out in a cluster orientation. This design provides a number of advantages when compared to a common side-by-side orientation. For instance, each building relates well to its neighbor yet still retains its own identity through the use of cladding, landscaping, and color schemes. This aids in providing individuality to each building's anchor tenant.

* The pedestrian-friendly campus features winding paths that lead to outdoor "people spaces," where tenants can enjoy the water features, shaded landscaping, and abundant open spaces. Many buildings also include executive patios exiting from the ground-floor offices. This design scheme is in direct response to the need for a variety of outdoor landscaped settings that promote an outdoor work environment in addition to the traditional indoor environment.

* The interior of the buildings are designed to be an extension of the home. The design team selected natural wood materials and finishes such as maple and limestone and incorporated high ceilings and oversized windows to incorporate more natural light.

* The landscape architecture surrounding the Summit buildings features extensive walkways that take advantage of the hillside views. Mature landscaping around plazas and private sitting areas as well as subtle water elements are designed to encourage an outdoor business environment. These areas combine traditional hardscape and landscape with more artistic elements to provide visual relief.

Instant Appeal

As a result of the pre-development research and planning that went into Summit's design, developers were able to obtain pre-leasing commitments from two tenants--Remedy Intelligent Staffing and SafeGuard--for 80% of the first 172,000-square-foot phase.

In the case of Remedy Intelligent Staffing, a technology-driven business services provider that offers staffing management services, the company needed to relocate from its San Juan Capistrano location due to its growing business. While cost and location were certainly important factors in the site selection decision, the final choice for Remedy came down to corporate culture. Because the company is a people-oriented business, its employees' comfort was critical in the final analysis. Thus, Summit's low-rise, campus environment located in the middle of a masterplanned community was a good fit.

And while Remedy wanted a functional business environment, it also needed a location where both the business and the employees could feel part of the neighborhood. At Summit, Remedy will benefit from close proximity to all the local community amenities, which include a local library, large retail center with a 22-screen Edwards Theater, and a variety of housing and apartment options. Summit's master plan also includes day-care and banking facilities, retail and restaurant support, a business hotel, and sports club--convenient amenities that were important to the quality of life and satisfaction of Remedy's workforce.

As illustrated by Summit's early success, there is no better way to develop a successful office environment in today's environment than by asking the tenants what they want. It could be the key to developing property that makes sense for the new world of work.

[ital]Russell J. Parker is president of Parker Properties, which-together with its affiliates-has developed in excess of 3.5 million square feet of commercial space in Southern California. For more information on Summit, call (949) 725-8444.[ital]

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