Reposition + Rebrand: Consultative Design

Fall 2014
The redesigned 101 Carnegie Center atrium, currently under construction, will feature vertical wall accents and chandeliers that emphasize the space’s height and volume as well as horizontal patterns on the floor to provide balance. Image courtesy JZA+D

Consultative design services can help building owners revive stale Class B and outdated Class A office properties.

Property managers and asset managers often engage design firms to help with brand establishment and interior renovations. Establishing a consistent brand identity for an office property or complex enables property managers, asset managers and real estate brokers to build and reinforce a strong reputation for their buildings. This attracts tenants of a matching caliber, who are able to pay higher rents, which ultimately makes the property more valuable. This package of services for commercial clients — advisory service plus branding, renovations and interior design — is often termed consultative design.

JZA+D recently worked with a building owner to renovate the lobby and public spaces of an office building at Carnegie Center in Princeton, New Jersey. The interior design of this Class A property’s lobby and public spaces had not been renovated in many years and did not exude a modern, Class A office aesthetic. The ceilings bore an out-of-date metal finish, which was paired with drab, industrial carpeting and exposed brick walls. The overall effect was particularly uninviting.

JZA+D used a strength-weakness-opportunity-threat (SWOT) analysis to identify the most cost-effective, impactful design solution possible. While the building’s strength was its location in the prestigious Carnegie Center complex, its threats and weaknesses included outdated finishes and amenities. Without an upgrade, potential tenants would overlook the property. Yet the lobby possessed one major opportunity: an atrium that granted views of each of the building’s four floors.

To take advantage of the expansive atrium, JZA+D suggested a design that would incorporate linear patterns to accentuate its height and volume. A group of custom chandeliers, positioned so that they could be seen from each floor, would become the focal point of the lobby. The design team selected new wall coverings that highlighted the verticality of the chandeliers as well as ceiling and floor finishes that featured horizontal elements, providing balance. The building owner was able to use JZA+D’s renderings of the new lobby design to help secure a 24,000-square-foot law firm tenant.

head shot of Marlyn Zucosky

Marlyn Zucosky

This repositioning project also addressed the building’s outdated cafe, which is located on the lower level. The design team created a new cafe with a larger footprint, better circulation and an “after hours” kiosk that extend the cafe’s hours. All of these elements will help the cafe to better meet the needs of new tenants, many of whom work longer days or more flexible schedules beyond the traditional 9-to-5 workday. The project also includes a new state-of-the-art fitness center (a new building amenity) with studio space for yoga and fitness classes adjacent to the redesigned cafe.

More and more, landlords and property managers are realizing the value of re-envisioning public spaces to provide more amenities for tenants. These range from cafes and public gathering spaces to more specialized amenities such as day care and fitness centers. Tenants tend to favor buildings with convenient facilities that help relieve employee stress and thus boost productivity; employees do not need to worry about where to go for lunch or how they’re going to squeeze in a workout at the gym before work if such services are readily available.

By looking at a property holistically and assessing its potential, the entire project team is able to generate a cohesive revitalization plan from the start. This enables the team to determine an accurate budget and establish a realistic project schedule that can keep the project on track from its inception.

Consulting with a design firm early on and throughout the renovation process can help building owners realize their property’s full potential. From establishing the property branding to designing public spaces and other amenities, designers can identify key assets of the building to emphasize, as well as elements that need attention. The end result will be a property that meets the needs of tenants and enjoys an augmented reputation, higher rents and increased occupancy rates.

Eight Questions to Begin the Consultative Design Process

JZA+D typically begins the consultative design process by asking building owners the following questions:

1) What are your goals for the property?
2) What is currently working toward achieving those goals? What’s not working?
3) How does this property fit into your larger portfolio? Do you want the property to stand alone or be branded as part of your portfolio?
4) What are your budget and schedule?
5) Does the current signage/wayfinding system work? Would you favor developing new signage as part of a property rebranding effort?
6) What type of tenants do you want to attract? Are you looking for large, full-floor users or multiple smaller users?
7) Are there outdoor areas that need improvement? How will those be used by tenants?
8) How do you envision the property’s shared amenities? Do you want to add a cafe? A fitness center? A conference area?